A former IRA bomber who turned his back on terrorism has condemned current legislation which does not distinguish between murderers and their victims.
Shane Paul O’Doherty from Londonderry orchestrated a campaign of letter bombs in London in 1973.
Clerical staff he maimed gave evidence at his trial and he was given 30 life sentences .
While in solitary confinement he began to study the Gospels and experienced a conversion experience. He then publicly resigned from the IRA and called on it to end its violence.
In recent days he was a member of a panel at Glencree Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Co Wicklow.
Addressing the themes of forgiveness, repentance and reconciliation afterwards, he said: “There is a clear difference in everybody’s mind between innocent civilians – or persons not engaged in paramilitary violence – who were cruelly and brutally murdered in fields, on tractors, in homes, coming out of churches or praying in churches.
“I don’t think anywhere in the world people are going to describe people who go out with murderous intent – whatever their background – as anything other than offenders willing to take life for their cause.”
He also slammed “persons who promote themselves in the political realm as peacemakers” but have only done so “for political favours, peace dividend money and a slice of power”.
Ken Funston, advocacy manager at victims’ group the South East Fermanagh Foundation, also spoke at the event. His brother Ronald was shot dead by the IRA as he drove his tractor on the family’s Fermanagh farm in 1984.
He noted Mr O’Doherty had made a conscious decision to join the IRA and chose to maim numerous people in his bombing campaigns.
“It must be welcomed and applauded that he is fully remorseful for those actions, and sought to do some good in this world by renouncing terrorism and working with the homeless,” Mr Funston said.
However, he noted that unlike Mr O’Doherty – who says he was motivated by revenge after Bloody Sunday – he never sought vengeance after his brother’s murder.
And although he came from a working-class background, Mr Funston said he never considered terrorism as a path to better his economic position.
“The new houses in the council estates of Londonderry in the 70s had running water, new kitchens and modern facilities,” he said.
“Life on a border farm was somewhat different, and living in that environment, it was never part of my mind-set to use economic disadvantage to commit crime.”