Sunday 20 January 2019

Adams defends 'armed actions' in interview with German magazine

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Photo: PA
Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. Photo: PA

Michael McHugh

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has said it is still his view that the "use of armed actions" is legitimate.

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel to mark the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Adams also claimed he had "condemned" IRA actions "at the time".

The magazine put it to the former Sinn Fein president: "You have defended IRA violence on multiple occasions as 'legitimate resistance'. As a devout Catholic, how do you reconcile that with your faith?"

Mr Adams replied: "It's still my view that the use of armed actions in the given circumstances is a legitimate response. Whether you exercise that right is another issue. And of course, there were many things that the IRA did which were wrong. And I both condemned at the time and deplore and regret it to this time."

Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has said there is little to celebrate 20 years on from the Agreement. Devolved government at Stormont has not sat for 14 months in a dispute between former coalition partners the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein over protection for the Irish language and addressing the legacy of Northern Ireland's violent past.

Mr Swann championed renewed reconciliation, tolerance, partnership, respect and mutual trust ahead of this week's anniversary of the landmark peace accord.

He said: "Sadly, the Belfast Agreement was not allowed to evolve and grow with society in the way it was envisaged because there were those who had much to fear from the normalisation of politics here.

"Twenty years on from 1998, there is little to celebrate when the DUP and Sinn Fein haven't been able to form a Government in the last 14 months, with one of them putting down a seemingly immovable red line of an Irish Language Act."

The ministerial Executive at Stormont collapsed when former Sinn Fein deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness resigned in a dispute over the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Endless rounds of negotiations led by the British and Irish governments have failed to produce a breakthrough.

Mr Swann told his party's spring conference in Newcastle, Co Down, the absence of government was hurting public services and unelected civil servants were making important decisions.

He urged an end to the "inhumane" treatment that survivors and victims of historical institutional abuse have suffered awaiting compensation payments recommended shortly before power sharing collapsed.

"We are a devolutionist party; we believe that the best delivery for the people of Northern Ireland is by the direction of locally elected Northern Ireland politicians.

"When the Assembly started to unravel, our party chairman, Lord Empey, warned others of how easy it was to walk down the steps, but not to underestimate how difficult it would be to get back up them. The current political impasse serves no one."

In his interview with Der Spiegel, Mr Adams was also pressed on the implications of Brexit to the peace process and if it had the potential to bring back violence.

"Your questions suggest that there is a volcano ready to explode. No. The vast, vast majority of people value the peace process. It is in my opinion not under threat. And the way to go forward in the first instance about Brexit is for designated special status for the north. It's to keep the north within the European Union to avoid economic hardships," Mr Adams said.

Mr Adams was also asked if Brexit opened the door for a united Ireland. "Brexit is such a disaster that I don't want to leave myself open to even an accusation of exploiting it. So, I would go no further than to say that it has alerted people who wouldn't be united Irelanders to the awful consequences if we saw a hard border on the island of Ireland.

He was also asked: 'By the time you finally reached the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, more than 3,500 people were dead. Was it worth it?

Mr Adams replied: "Well, it's hard to measure it in those ways. Of course, it would've been far better if not one person was killed or injured. But you don't pursue and you don't get progress without struggle."

©Press Association

Press Association

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