Yanis Varoufakis: The IRA was terrorism – but so was the campaign of the British Army

Greece's then finance minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives for crisis talks with an EU Commissioner at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on May 5, 2015. . (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Greece's then finance minister Yanis Varoufakis arrives for crisis talks with an EU Commissioner at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels on May 5, 2015. . (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

In the third and final part of his interview with YANIS VAROUFAKIS, Greece’s finance minister in 2015 when the country was on the verge of being pushed out of the euro, BEN LOWRY asks his views on Northern Ireland

Ben Lowry: Is it legitimate for this part of the island to be in the United Kingdom?

Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, speaks to the News Letter at Catalyst Arts Centre in Belfast, Friday February 24 2017

Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, speaks to the News Letter at Catalyst Arts Centre in Belfast, Friday February 24 2017

Yanis Varoufakis: Well it is not for somebody like me to tell the people of Northern Ireland anything about their identity.

If people want to feel that they are part of Britain, or the United Kingdom, whatever they want to call it, I think that they are perfectly entitled to feel that way.

What I can state, broadly, is that borders do not make for happy families and happy societies anywhere, especially in a place like Northern Ireland which has an external border and has internal borders – you know Shankill Road, Falls Road, and so on and so on.

I think the trick in the case of Northern Ireland, just like the case of Cyprus by the way, there are similarities on both ends of the European Union, the trick is to find ways of preserving our identities without hiding behind walls, fences and borders.

BL: So you would like a federal Europe?

YV: Yes, absolutely.

First part of interview: The EU might be doomed but I opposed Brexit even so

Second part: We leftists are not necessarily pro public sector – Marx was anti state

BL: OK, you’ve been quite close to Sinn Fein historically, would that be the party you would be closest to?

YV: Yes, that is correct.

BL: So, our readers would think that the IRA campaign was terrorism. Would you have a view on that?

YV: It was terrorism, but so was the campaign of the British army.

BL: Here or in general?

YV: In many parts of the world (laughs). In many parts of the world. Think of Amritsar, what was that? Were the Indians in Amritsar terrorised by the British army?

BL: So is there a place for terrorism in the world?

YV: No. There is no place for terrorism in a civilised world. But one man’s terrorist is another man’s brave soldier. So we should simply eliminate war ... and eliminate bombs and eliminate guns and eliminate violence.

I was never in favour of the IRA’s tactics. Never. I was in favour of the logic of doing away with borders within Ireland. I cringed and I shuddered every time a bomb went off. I don’t think I could ever place a bomb. I always thought it was quite cowardly to place bombs.

A straight fight, face to face, has a certain dignity about it. Bombs were never my cup of tea.

BL: Some people say Sinn Fein is so nationalistic that it is not left wing.

YV: This is a problem that doesn’t only pertain to Sinn Fein. It pertains to every national liberation movement.

Struggles for national self determination whether they are in Ireland, or in Greece in the 19th century, or in – wherever they happened to take place, Latin America – by their very nature they tend to promote, it is very easy when you are part of such a national liberation struggle to lose sight of the border line between patriotism and nationalism.

Now, from my experience of Sinn Fein, they are not nationalist, they are patriotic, like the SNP, the Scottish National Party, it is remarkable in that it is not nationalistic even thought it calls itself a national party, similarly the Catalonians.

What I think Sinn Fein, the SNP and the Catalan separatists have in common, nationalists have in common, is that they are completely internationalist and they do not see independence for their territory or their country as they see it to be part of nationalist international agenda like Le Pen, like Ukip, like Donald Trump and so on. So there’s a profound difference.

BL: Sinn Fein even supported a lower corporation tax here. They sometimes have got a little bit trapped in that. They’ve sometimes talked about it and then retreated from it.

YV: If they supported lower corporation tax in Ireland that was a mistake but it’s a mistake not that comes out of their ideology I don’t believe, I believe it came out of a short term misguided expediency so as not to be lambasted in parliament by the rest.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

First part of interview: The EU might be doomed but I opposed Brexit even so

Second part: We leftists are not necessarily pro public sector – Marx was anti state