Gerry Adams’ assertion that IRA violence was justified in the context of the Northern Ireland Troubles has been branded “dangerous talk” by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson.
In an interview with a German newspaper, the former Sinn Fein president said the violence began at a time when “people were being denied their rights,” and went on to say that “armed actions were a legitimate response”.
Commenting on the ‘Der Spiegel’ article, Sir Jeffrey said the Louth TD’s words offer “a major boost to so-called dissident republicans”.
Sir Jeffrey said: “This is dangerous talk at a time when we are in a political vacuum and many impressionable young people on the republican side may hear these words and decide that violence is a legitimate way forward. I think that Gerry Adams is in danger of doing a lot of damage to the peace process with these kind of utterances.”
Asked if violence was a “legitimate means with which to reach one’s aims?” Mr Adams said: “I think in given circumstances. And the circumstances at that time in the north were that people were being denied their rights.”
Alliance leader Naomi Long also slammed Mr Adams, saying: “The IRA campaign in NI was not [a just war]. It was terrorism and Gerry Adams’ equivocation on political violence 20 years after the GFA is completely unacceptable.”
Mr Donaldson called on the former Sinn Fein leader to “reflect long and hard” on what he said.
“This kind of language offers a major boost to so-called dissident republicans, and I think Gerry Adams needs to reflect long and hard on what he says and the language he used in his efforts to justify the violence of the IRA,” he said.
“For our part, we are very clear that the violence of the IRA was never justified, no matter how much Gerry Adams or anyone else attempts to rewrite the history of our troubled past.
“Although he has stepped down from the leadership of Sinn Fein, he can still show leadership by sending out a clear message to young people that violence offers no way forward for the future, and we need to hear that from him,” Sir Jeffrey added.
Mr Adams, a former MP for West Belfast, was replaced by Mary Lou McDonald as party president in February.
He has also indicated his intention to stand down from the Dail, but said he will not be resigning from Sinn Fein or ceasing to be politically active.
Mr Adams, who has always denied being a member of the IRA, angered many IRA victims in September last year when he said prosecuting former IRA members for murders and other IRA crimes would be “absolutely counterproductive”.
Despite his outspoken views on potential prosecutions for republicans, Mr Adams and Sinn Fein have repeatedly called for former soldiers and police officers to face trial over Troubles-era fatal shooting incidents.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has called on the current Sinn Fein leadership to “clarify their stance” on the comments – saying the remarks were indicative of “a mindset that has not moved on” and to state “what role and influence Gerry Adams still has in the party”.
Mr Swann said: “It is no surprise that republicans should seek to try to justify the terrorist actions they engaged in, but the reality is that the crimes they committed were simply that – crimes.
“There was no political agenda furthered by the Abercorn bombing. Or by Bloody Friday, Claudy, Enniskillen or Warrington.”
A number of other politicans and terror victims also critised Mr Adams, including DUP MLA Christopher Stalford who said: “A classic Adams interview. Self-serving, rewriting of past events which completely writes the constitutional nationalist position out of the story. This is a long, long way away from when McGuinness called the dissidents ‘traitors’.”
Victims’ campaigner Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA in 1984, tweeted her reaction.
She said: “Wow! Just wow! Has he learnt nothing? Has he not listened? Those whom have patted him on the back need to look at themeselves. Mr Adams you are wrong.”