No Gandhi in Ireland

Gerry Adams analyzes the legacy of quenching violent struggles in Ireland.
  • Transcript


Question: Could violence in Northern Ireland have been avoided by using Gandhi's tactics?

Gerry Adams: Yes. In theory, yes.

But I think first of all we should remind ourselves that against the background in India, there was quite a sustained campaign of violence against the British.

We didn’t have a Gandhi figure. We didn’t have such a figure. We didn’t have a Bishop [Desmond] Tutu. We didn’t have a Martin Luther King. We did have a good array people who did proclaim the good news.

The fact is, the history of Ireland is one in which the physical force tradition is quite strong. And secondly, at a time of what’s called Trouble or Troubles, the military response has almost been the first reaction by the British state. So whether it was agrarian struggle; whether it was was economic struggle; or social emancipation; or whether it was independence or liberation struggle, the British cracked down quite viciously.

And given the Irish psyche and given our own history, the physical force tendency was always in the ascendancy.

As you get older, you reflect on things and you see things from life experience and from a different perspective. I do think that armed actions were – and I defended them at the time – were justifiable in the context in which they occurred. I don’t agree with everything that happened. In fact, I strongly disagree and disapprove of some of the things that happened. But I think the core of what we put together in this process was to develop an alternative to armed action. So it wasn’t a matter of condemning, or denouncing, or marginalizing the people who used physical force. It was a matter of saying, “Look, you don’t have to do that because here’s a different way to do it.” But that meant other pillars of society, including governments, ________ the international community taking their weight of the responsibility and showing that politics could actually work. Because up until that point, politics actually worked.

Recorded on: Oct 8, 2007