'I forgive Thatcher' - Gerry Adams

'I forgive Thatcher' - Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who spoke so critically of Margaret Thatcher following her death this week, says he has forgiven her - but not for her handling of the hunger strikes in Northern Ireland.

The former Prime Minister died on Monday after suffering a stroke, at the age of 87.

Hours after her passing was announced, Mr Adams said that Baroness Thatcher's "espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering".

But speaking on Thursday, he admitted that he can forgive Margaret Thatcher for the way in which she handled affairs in Northern Ireland.

"I can't forgive her for the prison struggle - that's up to the prisoners and their families and her role in the hunger strikes was shameful - but in terms of anything that happened to me, of course I forgive her," Mr Adams told UTV.

"I've gone beyond hatred a very long time ago and I believe in forgiveness, but that is a personal matter which people have to come to as individuals."

My position has been completely consistent.

Gerry Adams

Lady Thatcher's funeral is to take place at St Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday and will be attended by the Queen. DUP First Minister Peter Robinson is among those who have been invited.

She has been remembered by people in Northern Ireland as a divisive figure, with republicans particularly aggrieved by the way in which she dealt with prisoners such as Bobby Sands.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MP died on 5 May 1981 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."

Mr Adams reiterated his stance on the former prime minister's involvement in the region, but said that many things have now changed.

"Her role in Ireland was one which hurt an awful lot of people, both British and Irish, protracted the war, caused huge damage to the prisoners in the H Blocks, and the women in Armagh," he added.

"But that's all over. We are in a better place. We've moved on."

This weekend around 2,000 Sinn Féin members will gather for the annual Ard Fheis.

Labour Shadow Secretary of State Vernon Coaker is set to become the first senior British politician to attend the event in Mayo.

It comes at the end of the week marking the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Adams said that the 1998 peace accord, which led to the establishment of the power-sharing Stormont Assembly, has delivered "generally" - but added that there's still work to do.

"It's delivered, generally speaking, on peace," he said.

"I'm mindful that there are small minorities who have still the ability to kill and have killed, but broadly speaking, as an agreement based upon equality, it has brought an end to the reason for conflict.

"There's no longer on this island a moral or political reason by anyone - British or Irish - to engage in violence. But has the agreement delivered?

"No it hasn't. But it was never going to immediately. Are we in a better place than we were before the agreement? Yes, most definitely yes."

© UTV

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