Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said she is “sorry” the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten in 1979.
Ms McDonald described the assassination – in which three others including two children were killed – as “heartbreaking”. She was speaking a day after the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II and nephew of Mountbatten.
Asked on Britain’s Times Radio if she would apologise personally to Prince Charles for the attack, she replied: “The army and the armed forces associated with Prince Charles carried out many, many violent actions on our island. And I can say, of course, I am sorry that that happened.”
Ms McDonald added: “Of course, that is heartbreaking. My job, and I think that Prince Charles and others would absolutely appreciate this, my job is to lead from the front, now, in these times.”
Ms McDonald said it is “all our jobs to ensure that no other child, no other family, irrespective of who they are, face the kind of trauma and heartbreak that was all too common on all sides – let me emphasise on all sides – of this island and beyond.
“I have an absolute commitment and responsibility to make sure that no family faces that again. And I am happy to reiterate that on the weekend that your queen buried her beloved husband.”
Ms McDonald’s predecessor, Gerry Adams, did not apologise to Prince Charles during a meeting in 2015, after which he said he stood over his comments that the royal “knew the danger” he was in by coming to Ireland.
The Irish Times asked Sinn Féin to clarify whether Ms McDonald was making an “apology” over the IRA attack, which was the interpretation a number of media outlets were putting on her comments. Several hours after seeking clarification, there was no response from the party.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said his party noted “the apology” over the killings in Mullaghmore.
It would be incredible if anyone was praised for saying sorry in relation to the murder of two adults and two children, he said.
Referring to Mr Adams’s remarks about Lord Mountbatten’s death, Mr Campbell said: “Has the Sinn Féin position now changed?”
“An apology is one thing, we now need to see condemnation and justice for all the murders that took place that day,” he added.
Lord Louis Mountbatten was killed when an IRA bomb detonated aboard his boat off the coast of Co Sligo. Also killed was Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull; the boy’s grandmother, Lady Doreen Brabourne; and Paul Maxwell, a 15-year-old boat boy from Enniskillen.
After his first meeting with Prince Charles in the Republic, Mr Adams said they both expressed regrets over deaths in the Troubles and spoke about the bombing in Mullaghmore as well as other atrocities.
But he declined to retract previous comments that the royal “could not have objected to dying” because “he knew the danger in coming to this country”.
“I stand over what I said then. I’m not one of those people that engages in revisionism. Thankfully the war is over,” said Mr Adams at the time.
Ms McDonald told Times Radio she had met Prince Charles on several occasions, adding that he “wrote me a lovely letter, wishing me well and wishing me a full recovery” after she contracted coronavirus last year.
“I thought that was most decent and kind of him,” she said.
In the interview, Ms McDonald also said she expected to see two referendums – one in the Republic and one in the North – that will deliver a united Ireland within 10 years.
“Let me say that is not simply a crude matter of bolting the North on to the Republic as it is currently constituted,” she added.
“This is a process that will offer massive and immense opportunity to Ireland to get things right in terms of public service provision, in terms of our industrial and economic model, in terms of civil, democratic and human rights, in terms of our constitutional framework. It is a huge opportunity.”