Gerry Adams: I'm no victim but I've an affinity with those killed by IRA and unionists need to admit mistakes
But IRA a 'legitimate response,' says outgoing Sinn Fein president
Gerry Adams has said he has an "affinity" with families of those killed by the IRA but stressed he was not a victim.
He also said that he would maintain to his dying day that the IRA was a "legitimate response" to British state actions and unionists needed to admit to making mistakes.
The outgoing Sinn Fein president was speaking to the BBC after announcing he is to retire from front line politics and step down as leader of the party he has led for the past three decades.
Families have appealed to the veteran republican to reveal all he knows of IRA murders.
"I've a particular affinity with people who were victims of the IRA, of families which were bereaved by the IRA or as a consequence of IRA actions," he said when asked what he would say to those families of victims of the terrorist organisation.
"And I want to be part of a process of reconciliation and help people get the truth."
He said he wanted to be clear that he did not consider himself a victim despite being shot and having his home bombed.
"One of the reasons I can speak on the issues of victims," he continued, "is because the community I come from, Ballymurphy, people there, families there, have waited over 40 years.
I have yet to hear a unionist leader stand up and say we were wrong, we made a mistake.
"We can't generalise victims. Some victims understandably are bitter, annoyed or unforgiving and that is their right.
"Others particularly some victims of the IRA are the best friends Sinn Fein could ever have because they want this to work."
Mr Adams, however, rounded on unionists and said they needed to admit to mistakes.
"I am prepared to stand up and say I accept responsibility," he continued.
"Martin McGuinness went to the Saville Inquiry, Martin McGuinness stood up in terms of reconciliation. I have yet to hear a unionist leader stand up and say we were wrong, we made a mistake. We all made mistakes.
The Sinn Fein president said that while he was not a member of the IRA he did not dissociate himself from the organisation. He said he still accepts the IRA was a "legitimate response" to the actions of the state at the time.
"I have condemned the IRA at times, I have been critical of the IRA at times, but at the same time I did accept and do accept yet that in response to a situation that a state did not want a huge number of its citizens and repressed and oppressed them and then the British government response to that was to militarise the situation that the IRA was a legitimate response to that.
"And I will never to the day I die move away from that.
"But I have also said I recognise the bravery of not just IRA people but those in the old RUC, within the British Army within unionist paramilitaries because their families see them - as republicans see their loved ones - as doing their duty."
He also said that while he didn't mind how history would judge him, saying for as long as he had good health he intended to play whatever role he could within the republican movement, although it would not be in a public role.
Belfast Telegraph Digital