Eric Gairy

Eric Gairy

Eric Gairy was born in Grenada in 1922. A schoolteacher and trade union leader he formed the left of centre political party, the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) in 1950.

Gairy soon became an important political figure in Grenada and held the posts of Chief Minister in the Federation of the West Indies (1957-1962) and became prime minister of Grenada in 1967. During this period, the main opposition to the GULP came from the Grenada National Party (GNP).

In 1969 Maurice Bishop returned to Grenada after studying law in England. Bishop now became Gairy's main rival. Bishop helped form the Movement for Assemblies of the People (MAP) and the Movement for the Advance of Community (MACE). Later these organizations merged with Joint Endeavor for Welfare, Education and Liberation (JEWEL) to establish the New Jewel Movement (NJM).

In 1970 Gairy formed a private army called the Mongoose Gang. On 18th November, 1973, Maurice Bishop and two other members of the NJM were badly beaten by this gang. Bishop suffered a broken jaw in the attack and was hospitalized for several weeks.

After his election victory in 1972 Gairy argued that Grenada should be granted its independence from Britain. In May 1973 Gairy visited London where he discussed this issue with Edward Heath and it was agreed that Grenada would become independent in February, 1974.

Some people in Grenada were worried by this decision. It was feared that Gairy would install himself as a dictator after independence. A Committee of 22 was established by the trade unions, civic organizations and the church. On 1st January 1974 the group called a national strike.

On 21st January 1974 the Committee of 22 held a protest march. During the demonstration the marchers were attacked by the police. Several people were injured and Rupert Bishop, the father of Maurice Bishop, the leader of the New Jewel Movement, was killed.

Eric Gairy and his Grenada United Labour Party won the elections held on 7th November, 1976. However, opposition leaders complained that all election officials were members of GULP and that they had tampered with the voting papers.

In 1977 Gairy began receiving advice from General Augusto Pinochet of Chile on how to deal with civil unrest. His police and military also received "counter insurgency" training from the Pinochet regime. The New Jewel Movement retaliated by developing links with Fidel Castro and his Marxist government in Cuba.

Gairy's state of mind also raised concerns. In October 1977 Gairy addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations. During his speech he urged the UN to establish an Agency for Psychic Research into Unidentified Flying Objects and the Bermuda Triangle. He also called for 1978 to be established as "The Year of the UFO".

In 1978 Gairy's police began arresting members of the opposition. Political leaders went into hiding and on 13th March 1979, Maurice Bishop of the New Jewel Movement led an overthrow of the government.

Gairy moved to the United States and lived in New York before moving to San Diego. He returned to Grenada in 1984 and after suffering a stroke died on 23rd August 1997.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) United States State Department reported on the activities of Eric Gairy in 1978.

The formation of the infamous Mongoose Gang in 1970 - an illegal act since Gairy had no legal authority to establish law enforcement agencies outside the provision of the law of the state - unleashed a series of unspeakable atrocities against the Grenada citizenry, constitution a veritable reign of terror.

(2) Eric Gairy, speech (February 1972)

Take warning, my dear people, and remember that we, as human beings, can fool one another, but we cannot fool God. In Carriacou today, there are a number of organization that are being operated under the guise of social, cultural or even charitable intentions, but you know as well as I do, that their motives are very sinister and contrary to what the organizers profess them to be. You know too, that certain persons have been going around by night and day, telling lies, preaching hate, and like wolves in sheep clothing have been deceiving the poor people and robbing them of their much needed pennies, under false pretences. Beware, my dear people, and again remember that they are only fooling themselves, because we believe that there is a just God whom they cannot fool.

Obviously, this terrible drought situation is a consequence of the sinful way of life which prevails in Carriacou and Petit Martinique today. This sinful way of hate, of violence, of ungratefulness and of untruth is not the Way of God, but of men who represent the devil and his followers, and consequently are responsible for summoning the wrath of God upon us all."

(3) Eric Gairy, speech (7th February 1974)

We are now completely free, liberated, independent. In spite of a wicked, malicious, obstructive, destructive minority of noise-making self-publicists, God has heard our prayers. God has been merciful. God has triumphed.

(4) Maurice Bishop, speech (March, 1979)

Let me assure the people of Grenada that all democratic freedoms, including freedom of elections, religious and political opinion, will be fully restored to the people. People of Grenada, this revolution is for work, for food, for decent housing and health services, and for a bright future for our children and great grandchildren.