Violence can be a legitimate way to achieve aims, Adams says

Ex-Sinn Féin chief says: ‘The people that I know didn’t go to war. The war came to us’

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said he believes violence can, in certain circumstances, be justified to reach political aims. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said he believes violence can, in certain circumstances, be justified to reach political aims. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times.

 

Former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said he believes violence can, in certain circumstances, be justified to reach political aims.

In an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel, Mr Adams was asked about the Troubles, the current political deadlock in Northern Ireland and his hopes for a united Ireland.

He was speaking ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement next week.

When asked if he believes violence is a legitimate means with which to reach one’s aims, he replied: “I think in given circumstances.

“And the circumstances at that time in the North were that people were being denied their rights.

“The English occupiers refused to concede those and in fact attacked the demonstrators. The most disastrous mistake that the English government made is that they handed the situation over to the generals. That always leads to a militarisation of the situation. Military people are not there to pacify, they are there to subjugate.”

‘War came to us’

Mr Adams denied ever shooting at anyone during the Troubles but said he joined Sinn Féin after reading what the British government had planned for Ireland in the Special Powers Act.

“The people that I know didn’t go to war. The war came to us,” he said.

“I woke up one morning, and the British Army were in occupation of the local school, the local football pitch, the local social centre, the roadblocks were up. They were stopping you. They were throwing you up against the wall. They were arresting you. They were molesting women, and so on and so on.”

Mr Adams was asked how he reconciled his Catholic faith with the use of violence.

“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,” he said.

‘Struggle’

Mr Adams was also asked if the Belfast Agreement was worth the deaths of more than 3,000 people killed during the Troubles.

“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,” he said.

“And I say that as someone who has lost a lot of family members and friends and who has been tortured and shot myself. I’ve been there, and I’ve been at many, many funerals. But of course, you can only measure all of this at the end of all of this. And I do believe that Irish unity is going to be the reality.

“Many armed groups were involved in the conflict. Regardless of who was responsible, I regret all the dead. Our cause and our commitment must be to ensure it never happens again.”

Mr Adams said he felt he achieved his aims as leader of Sinn Féin and would continue to work as an activist. He was replaced by Mary Lou McDonald in February and intends to retire from the Dáil following the next general election.