CONTROVERSIAL victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer has revealed that up to five former IRA men have approached him to apologise for the murder of his father.
Willie’s father Bertie, a council worker and part-time UDR soldier, was murdered as he helped out on a friend’s farm near Whitecross in 1975. Two of his uncles and two cousins were also murdered by republicans, all of which contributed towards Willie becoming a vocal critic of Sinn Fein and the IRA.
He caused widespread anger recently for erroneously identifying an Italian tricolour flying at a primary school as an Irish tricolour and making remarks, which he later apologised for and withdrew.
Last year he also hit the headlines when he lodged complaints about children dressed as terrorists posing for photographs at an EU-funded community centre in south Armagh.
Widely viewed as a provocative figure in the midst of a ‘new’ Northern Ireland, yesterday he revealed that up to five IRA members have approached him privately to apologise for the murder of his father.
“They were IRA men, republicans,” he said. “But they were not involved in anything like Kingsmills. They were the type that were more on for attacking the Army. In fact the last one that approached me was only a few days ago.
“One day I stopped with my brother outside my parents’ first home and one man pulled up and was speaking to us. He knew we were Bertie Frazer’s sons. He was just chatting about how they all used to run around together.
“But the important words were that he said ‘Bertie should never have been shot’, that ‘it should never have happened’ and that ‘he was a good man’. Any of them that said it to me, I believe they meant it.”
He said the men that approached him were of his father’s generation, putting them approximately in their 70s.
“There have been four or five guys in the past two years,” he said. “These guys knew my dad personally and used to ceili in our house with him.
“They were IRA men but you could sit down and do business with them. In fact I believe an IRA man carried my father’s coffin.
“These were the type of men that you could hold your view and they could have theirs and you could still get on with life. But there is a different element of republicans that will not accept that – vicious republicans that are not even accepted by other republicans.
“It was the older generation of IRA men that warned my dad and others like him not to go into certain areas at certain times.”
And what if the men who killed his father approached him in the same way?
“If they were prepared to hand themselves in, I would accept their apology,” he said. It does not matter in his mind if they serve any jail time – “that is up to the system,” he said.
“As long as someone is held accountable. But to tell us to forget about it – that is not going to happen. It just creates more hurt and division.”
In February the News Letter carried reports from south Armagh peacemaker Ian Bothwell that a number of republicans who had engaged in “front-line activity” in that area are “seeking forgiveness for their past actions”.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said anyone in such a position should “hand themselves in” to their local police station.
In March Sinn Fein national chairperson, Declan Kearney, urged republicans to engage in “uncomfortable conversations” about their past and to recognise the healing influence of saying “sorry”. But the DUP has objected that such offers do not come with Sinn Fein accepting any responsibility for the IRA’s role in the Troubles.
* Follow News Letter journalist Philip Bradfield on twitter account @Phil_Bradfield