A man whose wife was one of 10 people killed by an IRA bomb in October 1993 has said he believes Martin McGuinness regretted all the murders carried out by the republican terror group.
Alan McBride’s wife Sharon died when the bomb went off in her father’s fish shop in the heart of the loyalist Shankill Road in Belfast.
Mr McBride, who is now employed by Wave, one of the main charities in Northern Ireland helping Troubles victims and working on peace and reconciliation, has paid tribute to the former IRA commander for his role in bringing peace to the region.
“I do believe that Martin McGuinness himself was a very genuine person.
“I do believe he was genuinely committed to the peace process. I do believe that he genuinely regretted all the deaths that happened. I do think he would regret the loss of life. That is what I choose to believe,” said Mr McBride.
He added: “I think Martin McGuinness made a huge contribution to the peace process.”
Mr McBride said there are many who will be unable to forgive Mr McGuinness for his IRA past, but added that he believes society, including many unionists, owe the former deputy first minister “a debt of gratitude” for leaving “this place in a better condition”.
“When my wife was murdered in 1993, I had a very personal campaign against Sinn Fein because for me they were the very public face of the Shankill Bomb. I remember taking placards and standing outside Sinn Fein offices.
“I remember following Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams to Washington, to Boston and New York, and I would have been there with my placards,” said Mr McBride.
He added: “But one thing I learnt along the road is it is probably better to sit around a table to discuss issues with your enemies than it is to shout abuse at them from across the side street.
“I had those opportunities with meeting Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams and having conversations and dialogues.”
Mr McBride said despite Mr McGuinness’s past, he grew to admire him.
“One thing about Martin McGuinness, when you have been in his company, he is a hard guy not to like.
“He was a very warm, affable individual. I certainly did grow to have a certain amount of admiration for him.
“I know that is not something that would be shared across the province. For some he was the devil incarnate. I am fortunate enough to be able to step to the side in all that in spite of my own hurt and my own pain,” he said.
“Had Martin McGuinness stayed involved with the IRA and armed conflict then of course my views on (him) would be very different today.
“But thank God, he chose a different path, and I think society is better for it,” added Mr McBride.