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Prince Charles shakes hands with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams at the National University of Ireland Getty Images

Prince Charles has met and shaken hands with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in a four-day visit to Ireland where his great uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA.

The symbolic meeting – the first of its kind to be held by both sides – was held at a reception at the National University of Ireland Galway where they discussed how important it was to continue the peace process on behalf of society after the so-called Troubles or the Northern Ireland conflict .

After shaking hands they had a private meeting with the pro-Republican party's Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness, which lasted 15 minutes.

Following the meeting, Adams said: "We did discuss the need for the entire process to move forward, particularly in regard to those who have suffered, those who have been bereaved."

He said the meeting "was a big thing for him to do and a big thing for us to do".

Adams added: "We have a cause to represent and a future to carve out and that's what it's all about."

Sinn Fein was once associated with the IRA, which was responsible for countless killings including Mountbatten, a godson of Queen Victoria, and his family. The IRA remotely detonated a bomb on his fishing boat in the seaside village of Mullaghmore, County Sligo.

Under Adams, Sinn Fein changed its policy of abstentionism from the parliament in Ireland in 1986 and later took seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly. Meanwhile, in 2005, the IRA gave up its armed campaign.

Sinn Fein has become the fourth-largest political party in the Republic of Ireland and the second-largest in Northern Ireland.