Gerry Adams is about to get the chance to hang out with his nemesis Margaret Thatcher – thanks to the British National Portrait Gallery.

The leading London gallery has just purchased a portrait of the Sinn Fein leader by the English artist Conrad Atkinson.

The Irish Times reports that the work is made with acrylic, watercolour and oil pastel and was created when Atkinson met Adams in 2007 and 2008.

The painting is inscribed with words taken from writings by hunger striker Bobby Sands.

Previously displayed at an exhibition in Belfast’s Grand Opera House, the painting will now be open to the public at the London gallery where it will hang alongside other politicians, including Thatcher.

The gallery features the most extensive collection of portraits in the world and has many images of Thatcher as well as portraits of key political figures such as William Gladstone and royalty such as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles, according to the paper.

Atkinson told the paper: “The purchase of the painting is a really good and important initiative by the gallery.

“I think they are quite brave to do it. There may well be no controversy but there may well be.”

The report also says that Atkinson has had a fractious relationship with the Ulster Museum following an incident in 1978 when museum attendants refused to hang one of his works, which commemorated the victims of Bloody Sunday.

The London gallery has yet to finalise a date for the arrival of the Adams portrait.

A spokesman said: “The sale has just been approved so a date had not yet been set for its display. It is early days yet as it’s still going through the process of acquisition.”

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