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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Brighton bomb victim: Why I forgive
Bomb damaged hotel
The 1984 blast killed five people
A victim of the IRA's Brighton bomb who met and chatted with the man who planted it has spoken out about why he has offered forgiveness.

Harvey Thomas had an "extraordinary escape" from the seafront Grand Hotel when it was attacked during the 1984 Conservative Party conference, killing five people and narrowly failing to wipe out Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet.

My motive was simply to share my personal Christian faith and perhaps to try and understand another side of the story

Harvey Thomas
As a Christian Mr Thomas decided he had to meet and forgive the man responsible, Patrick Magee, who under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement was released from prison in 1999 after serving 14 years.

Mr Thomas told BBC News: "My sole motive is that after 12 years of praying about it a lot I felt, 'OK, the Bible says I should forgive as God forgives us and I therefore took that initiative and said yes, I forgive'."

"Once it's forgiven then it's completely forgiven, it's not forgotten, but it is forgiven.

"But it can only be individual. I wouldn't suggest others feel the same way."

Minor injuries

Mr Thomas, former Tory director of presentation and a senior adviser to Mrs Thatcher, was staying on the floor above the bomb when it went off.

He was blown up through the roof, then fell three floors and was left hanging precariously above a five storey drop.

Patrick Magee being released from jail
Magee was released from the Maze in 1999
After two and a half hours he was rescued suffering from minor injuries.

Others were not so lucky, with Roberta Wakeham - first wife of Lord Wakeham - and Tory MP Sir Anthony Berry among those killed.

Mr Thomas first contacted Magee by writing to him in the Maze prison three years ago.

He received a "very courteous" reply that thanked Mr Thomas for his graciousness in offering forgiveness, said they obviously held different points of view and added that there was no "pleasure or joy" in people getting killed.

Dublin meeting

A second letter followed. "My motive was simply to share my personal Christian faith and perhaps to try and understand another side of the story without in an any way condoning actions," Mr Thomas explained.

The pair finally met at a house in Dublin around nine months ago for a meeting that lasted many hours.

Norman Tebbit being rescued from the hotel
Norman Tebbit was among those injured in the blast
They chatted about personal matters and some of the reasons behind the IRA's actions before the peace process began, including the organisation's view that it was at war with Britain.

Mr Thomas said that at no point did Magee offer an apology - but he was not expecting one.

"It's a very difficult situation for an individual, if we think how difficult it is to say sorry ourselves sometimes.

"He did say he very much regretted that people got hurt and killed because of actions taken in a war time situation."

War comparison

Mr Thomas drew comparisons with conflicts such as the Second World War.

"That does not justify it morally and I don't suggest that for one moment, but it is a view that if you are on one side and you consider yourself a soldier then you have to take actions that are comparative with being a soldier."

Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was badly injured in the bombing, has given a cool reaction to news of Mr Thomas' move.

"I don't have a view on whether Harvey Thomas should visit his attackers. That's up to Mr Thomas," he told the Evening Standard.

Harvey Thomas
talks about his decision to the BBC's Edward Stourton

Assembly back

IRA arms breakthrough


Loyalist ceasefire





See also:

28 Aug 00 | Northern Ireland
Brighton bomb 'led to peace'
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