EXCLUSIVE: Gerry Adams: I can forgive Thatcher
Published: 11 Apr 2013 10:000 comments
On Monday, just hours after her death, Mr Adams hit out at Baroness Thatcher for the way in which she dealt with republican prisoners such as Bobby Sands, who was elected Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP in 1981 while on hunger strike.
"Her failed efforts to criminalise the republican struggle and the political prisoners is part of her legacy," he said.
Mr Sands made a number of demands on behalf of republican prisoners but Mrs Thatcher refused to meet them, saying: "Crime is crime, not political."
On May 5, Mr Sands died after 66 days on hunger strike.
At the time, Mrs Thatcher said: "He chose to take his own life; it was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims."
Speaking to this newspaper yesterday - on the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement -- Mr Adams said Bobby Sands had shown "bravery, unselfishness and sure courage" during the hunker strike.
The Sinn Fein President said he was was "very philosophical" about Mrs Thatcher's death and despite standing by his earlier comments, he said he could "forgive" her.
"It isn't up to me to forgive her for what she did to the prisoners; that's up to them and their families. I can forgive her, because I think we have to be about forgiveness. I can forgive her for anything that was done to me under her rule and I don't have any problem with that - I actually believe in forgiveness. I just know as an individual; hatred or failure to forgive is most corrosive to the person involved as opposed to the perpetrator who mightn't even be conscious of what you are thinking about him or her."
He added: "We Irish are very forgiving people, we don't speak ill of the death."
And he criticised those involved in "Thatcher parties", celebrating her death.
"I think it is demeaning to celebrate anyone's death. It might be understandable at a certain level, but that doesn't say whether it should be encouraged or not encouraged."
Mr Adams said his thoughts were with Mrs Thatcher's family: "As one would with anybody who suffers a bereavement, I would feel it for her children and any other family members, because few people are one dimensional so one presumes as a grandmother or great grandmother, or mother, that the grieving process is the same for every single person, no matter the reputation or historical legacy."
Reacting to Mrs Thatcher's death on Monday, Mr Adams told reporters that the former Prime Minister had caused "great hurt to the Irish and British people."
"Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering," he said.
Yesterday, Mr Adams reiterated those views, telling this newspaper: "I think her position was quite shameful."
His earlier comments have sparked anger, with Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster saying: "On the day that somebody has died it is really quite disgraceful that they should use it to score political points."
"The reality is that Margaret Thatcher wasn't afraid to stand up to terrorists which is why we have this outburst today. I can't say I am surprised because that's the sort of people you are dealing with. She did what was right at the time."
"She is someone who stood firm and showed that politics wasn't just for the male of the species. She had a presence in all aspects of politics when I was growing up and in many ways she was an inspiration."
Ulster Unionist MLA Tom Elliott said Baroness Thatcher "had a very strong political viewpoint and wasn't afraid to remain firm."
In relation to the comments by Mr Adams, Mr Elliott responded: "It highlights the venom that is being pushed from republicans -- she was their Prime Minister whether they liked it or not. Margaret Thatcher didn't starve Bobby Sands to death, he chose to do that himself. She didn't treat him any different to any other criminal."
But yesterday Mr Adams rejected the criticism he received from the Fermanagh politicians.
"I think it is a bit rich. I am giving an opinion. I am very conscious that this was another human being, I am very conscious that she had her own family, very conscious that she was a formidable figure, I think my statement was quite measured."
Asked if he thought it was appropriate to make sure comments so soon after Mrs Thatcher's death, Mr Adams said: "Of course it was, of course it was - the media can't have it both ways. The media can't look for comments, then raise issues around the comments."
Asked for his reaction, Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan said: "I fully agree with Gerry's thoughts on the matter."
He said: "The people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone sent a very clear message to Margaret Thatcher with the election of Bobby Sands MP 32 years ago. That election and that message will remain to the fore in her legacy in the eyes of the people of this constituency."
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