Gerry Adams: I feel for IRA victims, my family suffered in Troubles too
Gerry Adams says he understands the pain of IRA victims, because he and his family and community have suffered violence.
The Sinn Fein president stressed that although he had been targeted in loyalist attacks, he did not view himself as a victim.
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Mr Adams announced at the party's ard fheis in Dublin last weekend that he was stepping down as leader after 34 years. Sinn Fein will hold a special conference early next year to choose his successor, with Mary Lou McDonald the clear favourite.
The party's leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O'Neill, and high-profile Donegal TD Pearse Doherty have both ruled themselves out of the running.
In a special ard fheis tribute to former Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Foyle MP Elisha McCallion declared: "Martin was a proud member of the IRA."
Speaking on UTV last night, Mr Adams denied it was a glorification of the IRA. "That was a tribute to Martin McGuinness ... no more or less than that," he said.
The Sinn Fein president maintained he was very conscious of the suffering of victims. "My brother-in-law was shot dead by the British Army when my sister was six months' pregnant," he said.
"My young cousin was picked up coming out of a traditional music session and found stabbed to death in a quarry, murdered and brutalised by a loyalist unionist death squad.
"I've been shot. My house has been bombed.
"I say all of that to make the point that I know what it's like, not to be casting myself as a victim, because I'm not a victim. I don't see myself as a victim.
"But just to let people know that I understand."
Asked if he would ever admit to being in the IRA, Mr Adams claimed he had already been "transparent on the issue".
He said: "I will never disassociate myself from the IRA. My role in terms of whatever achievements Sinn Fein has secured has been to bring about a process where armed actions were no longer needed.
"I think that's hugely important in terms of how we develop in the time ahead. I don't disassociate myself, neither do I agree with everything the IRA did. I've been very, very critical.
"I've condemned the IRA on many occasions and I particularly regret the fact that ordinary people - citizens, civilians - were killed or injured at the hands of the IRA."
On the possibility of the IRA ever coming forward and telling the truth about its actions during the conflict, Mr Adams said the IRA "has gone, so there's not going to be any corporate or organisational response".
He said Mr McGuinness had "led by example" when he went to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday.
"I, in my own small way, have tried to help victims of the IRA and tried to get them answers," he said. "Most of it is unrecorded and most of it is private, and thankfully people have got some sense of closure."
He added that it would be up to individual republicans to decide if they wanted to take part in a truth telling process.
Mr Adams denied that he would remain backstage, pulling the strings of his successor.
He said it was mostly his political opponents who predicted that "and they say whatever they think advances their own particular little cynical attack on our party".
"Whoever is elected to lead Sinn Fein will be the leader," he added.
Mr Adams told the BBC that he didn't mind "how history judges me. I won't be around to appreciate it, so I don't really care," he said. When asked if the IRA campaign had progressed or set back Irish unity, he said people wouldn't have secured rights they currently enjoy if there hadn't been "armed resistance to what was going on".
The IRA's "big achievement" was that it had the courage and maturity to embrace "an alternative way forward".
The Sinn Fein president added that as long as his health permitted, he would play whatever role he could. "It won't be a public role, it won't be in any office, but I will do my best to continue the work that has been going on for some time now," he said.