‘Her Irish policy failed miserably’

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams reacted to the announcement of Margaret Thatcher’s death with a scathing assessment of herpolitical legacy in Ireland and elsewhere.

Thatcher has long been vilified in republican circles over her involvement in the North, in particular her handling of the IRA hunger strikes in the Maze prison in the early 1980s. She was a top target of the IRA, which nearly succeeded in killing her in the deadly Brighton bomb blast of 1984.

“Margaret Thatcher did great hurt to the Irish and British people during her time as British prime minister,” said Mr Adams.

“Working-class communities were devastated in Britain because of her policies. Her role in international affairs was equally belligerent whether in support of the Chilean dictator Pinochet, her opposition to sanctions against Apartheid South Africa, and her support for the Khmer Rouge.

“Here in Ireland her espousal of old draconian militaristic policies prolonged the war and caused great suffering.”

He accused her of embracing censorship, collusion, and the use of lethal force in covert operations.

Mr Adams and fellow senior Sinn Féin representatives were subject to the then Thatcher ban of their voices being broadcast during the Troubles.

“Her failed efforts to criminalise the republican struggle and the political prisoners is part of her legacy.

“It should be noted that in complete contradiction of her public posturing, she authorised a back channel of communications with the Sinn Féin leadership but failed to act on the logic of this.

“Unfortunately she was faced with weak Irish governments who failed to oppose her securocrat agenda or to enlist international support in defence of citizens in the north. Margaret Thatcher will be especially remembered for her shameful role during the epic hunger strikes of 1980 and 81.

“Her Irish policy failed miserably.”

Former SDLP leader John Hume described Thatcher as an “extremely divisive figure”.

“Events in Ireland dominated and defined Margaret Thatcher’s time as prime minister.

“Her hardline, belligerent, and uncompromising approach during the hunger strikes won her few friends among nationalists. There is no doubt that her actions caused great hurt and harm. As a result she remained an extremely divisive figure and we clashed politically on many occasions over our differing views on how to achieve a peaceful solution to the situation in the North. However, with the help of American influence, she had the strength to withstand unionist intransigence and sign up to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

“This was a significant move and a key foundation stone in the beginning of our peace process which culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 15 years ago [today].”

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