The leader of Ireland’s Sinn Fein party has today apologised for the 1979 IRA assassination of Prince Philip’s uncle Louis Mountbatten.
The IRA, of which Sinn Fein was once the political wing, killed Philip’s uncle and mentor to Prince Charles as part of the decades-long conflict waged between Irish republicans and those who wanted Northern Ireland to remain in British hands.
Mary Lou McDonald, now leader of the party, said today that the bomb attack which killed Lord Mountbatten as he holidayed with his family at Classiebawn Castle was ‘heartbreaking’ and she is ‘sorry it happened’.
Her comments came the day after Prince Philip was laid to rest at St George’s Chapel in Windsor in front of his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, after his death at the age of 99.
The leader of Ireland’s Sinn Fein party – once the political wing of the IRA – has apologised for the 1979 assassination of Lord Mountbatten, Prince Philip’s uncle (pictured together in 1965)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou Macdonald (right) described the killing of Lord Mountbatten (left) by the IRA as heartbreaking as she apologised the day after his nephew Prince Philip’s funeral
‘Of course I am sorry that happened, of course that is heart-breaking,’ McDonald told Times Radio.
‘I am happy to reiterate that on the weekend that your queen buried her beloved husband,’ she added.
It marks the first time the political leader of Irish republicans has apologised for the bombing.
Gerry Adams, her predecessor, pointedly refused to apologise for the attack when he met Prince Charles in 2015.
Lord Mountbatten, who was known as the last Viceroy of India and had overseen its partition, was a popular and well-known royal figure who had not been involved in the fighting in Ireland, but held a prominent position as mentor to Prince Charles.
The IRA had repeatedly threatened to assassinate him, and came close in 1978 when a sniper reportedly tried to fire at retired admiral from a boat – but was unable to take his shot due to bad weather.
Lord Mountbatten had dismissed the threats, one quipping: ‘Who the hell would want to kill an old man?’
But in 1979, the IRA succeeded using a 50lb remote-control bomb fastened to the hull of Lord Mountbatten’s custom fishing boat, the Shadow V.
The explosion took place while the 79-year-old was on his yearly holiday to Classiebawn Castle in County Sligo – close to an area of known IRA activity – along with members of his family.
On the night of August 26, two members of the IRA had snuck down to the docks where the boat was moored and affixed the bomb to its hull.
The following day, a Bank Holiday, the Earl had taken Shadow V out on an expedition alongside six others – his daughter Patricia, her husband, Lord John Brabourne, their 14-year-old twins, Timothy and Nicholas, and Lord Brabourne’s mother, the dowager Lady Doreen Brabourne.
Louis Mountbatten pictured with members of his family on Shadow V at Mullaghmore, County Sligo in the Republic of Ireland, circa 1975. He was killed on a similar fishing trip in 1979
Around 30 minutes into the voyage, the bomb was detonated – killing Lord Mountbatten, Nicholas and Paul instantly.
Lady Brabourne died the next day of her injuries.
The attack also coincided with a major attack on British armed forces at Warrenpoint in a roadside bomb ambush.
Eighteen soldiers died in what was the heaviest one-day loss of life for the army since The Troubles began.
The group stated at the time that the ‘bombing was a discriminate act to bring to the attention of the English people the continuing occupation of our country’.
Lord Mountbatten was Philip’s maternal uncle as the brother of Philip’s mother Alice and it is thought the two were extremely close up until his death.
Lord Mountbatten’s daughter, Lady Patrica Brabourne, 55, her husband Lord Brabourne, 54, the Dowager Lady Brabourne, 82, and Nicholas’s twin brother, Timothy, also were on board and were taken to hospital.
Mountbatten was also a mentor to Philip’s son Prince Charles.
McDonald said Sunday that ‘my job, and I think Prince Charles… would absolutely appreciate this, is to lead from the front now, in these times.
‘It’s all of our jobs to make sure that no other child, no other family, irrespective of who they are, face the kind of trauma and heartbreak that was all too common sadly in all sides on this island and beyond,’ she said.
Around 3,500 lives were lost in the conflict between unionists and nationalists over the future of Northern Ireland that ended with a landmark peace deal in 1998.
On Saturday, Irish prime minister Micheal Martin warned against a ‘spiral back’ into sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland, as a week of riots raised fears for the future of the fragile deal.