A former senior Provisional IRA man has rubbished any notion that former republican combatants would participate in a truth recovery process proposed by former White House envoy Richard Haass.
Tommy Gorman, 67, who joined the IRA in 1970 said: “It would not work at all. It would give people more grievances and bring things back to the surface again.
“It would also bring the suffering back for everyone, and the young families of those who carried out the crimes would have to live with it.”
Mr Gorman, who now lives in Co Donegal, spoke to the News Letter after former IRA men Anthony McIntyre, Richard O’Rawe, Tommy McKearney and Gerard Hodgins told of their concern about the ongoing dissident republican campaign.
All, in their own words, told of how they believed the dissident campaign had little support in the nationalist/republican community and should be stopped with immediate effect.
“A group of us have been making this point about dissidents for a long, long time,” he said.
“We would prefer they [the dissidents] used any energies they have towards demolishing Sinn Fein’s argument. There are sheep following them [Sinn Fein]. To my great shame I was one of those sheep following their rhetoric and I took it all in.”
Mr Gorman said he got involved with the IRA when he was 21 years old in 1970 after he “felt the civil rights campaign had gone as far as it could”. He said: “Then I decided I was going to join the IRA.
“What made it difficult for me at that time was I had a brother in the RUC and another brother in the British Army, so I had to think long and hard about it because my brothers were then part of the enemy.
“At the time when I was in the IRA I could not see any alternative.
“They tried the force of argument and that failed, so they tried the argument of force. At the time I saw no other way.
“We use the analogy that the struggle was like a bus journey, but the wrong people got behind the wheel and they have brought us into a constitutional right wing cul-de-sac.”
In the 1970s he was interned twice — in the Crumlin Road jail and the Maidstone in Belfast harbour. He says he escaped from both. In 1981, the republican was rearrested and charged with possession of ammunition and explosives and was released in 1986.
Mr Gorman said he started to question the “Sinn Fein machine” while in jail. He said Sunday papers they received had “pages missing”.
“The IRA staff in the jail were doing it and when we asked why this was happening they said there was stuff printed that were the figments of reporter’s imaginations,” he said.
“I pointed out to them they didn’t have the guts to question anything. There is this notion that you can’t get out of it [the IRA], but I just walked away. Then I started writing letters questioning Sinn Fein’s direction which had a mixed response in the street.
“Some people would blank me, others would say ‘fair play for saying it’ and others would whisper — and that was for just having an alternative political thought. These people who had carried bombs and ammunition were afraid of being in the possession of an alternative political thought.”
Yesterday Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he believed the Haass talks could succeed a resolution was possible, with talks recommencing today and expected to continue into next week.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said: “In our opinion, the test of any proposal is whether it represents doing what’s right for Northern Ireland, and that will be measured in whether it is fair to all our citizens and advances society in a manner that does not disrespect the rights and needs of victims and survivors, nor disregards the rule of law.”