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Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 00:59 GMT 01:59 UK
IRA says sorry to civilian victims
The chaos was pictured by the BBC
More than 20 bombs were detonated on Bloody Friday
The IRA has apologised to the civilian victims of its campaign of violence in a statement marking the anniversary of one of Northern Ireland's worst atrocities.

In a statement in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht (Republican News), it said it offered "sincere apologies" to the families of those killed on Bloody Friday.


We offer our sincere apologies and condolences to their families

IRA statement
Nine people were killed when 21 bombs exploded across Belfast on 21 July 1972.

And in an unprecedented move the IRA apologises and offers its condolences to families of all the civilians who died as a result of its campaign of violence.

The IRA used the term "non-combatants" in the statement, to mean those who are not members of any paramilitary organisation, members of the police, Army or anyone connected with the security forces.

Republican sources have described the apology as "very significant and far reaching".

Colin Parry, whose son was killed by the IRA, said: "In truth it offers no comfort. My hurt is absolute and my loss is absolute and no word from the IRA can mitigate for the loss of my son.

"That said, I am as active in the peace process as a private individual can be, and from that perspective I appreciate what they are doing."


It is an apology of unprecedented strength

John Reid, NI Secretary

The IRA statement said: "While it was not our intention to injure or kill non-combatants, the reality is that on this and on a number of other occasions, that was the consequence of our actions.

"It is, therefore, appropriate on the anniversary of this tragic event, that we address all of the deaths and injuries of non-combatants caused by us."

'Grief and pain'

The group said there had been "fatalities amongst combatants on all sides".

"We also acknowledge the grief and pain of their relatives. The future will not be found in denying collective failures and mistakes or closing minds and hearts to the plight of those who have been hurt.

"That includes all of the victims of the conflict, combatants and non-combatants."

The IRA said this could not be achieved by creating a hierarchy of victims in which some were deemed more or less worthy than others.

Nine people were killed when 21 bombs exploded across Belfast
Nine people were killed when 21 bombs exploded across Belfast
Conflict resolution required the equal acknowledgement of the grief and loss of others, it said.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said he very much welcomed the statement.

"It is an apology of unprecedented strength. It is an acknowledgement of the terrible pain that was caused throughout the years of conflict - particularly to civilians - but also wider than that."

'Illegal arms'

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said: "Today's statement by the IRA is a significant contribution to the process of consolidating peace and reconciliation."

Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey said it was not difficult to understand why any organisation would take time to "look at these matters and come up with a response to it in a sensitive and understanding way".

"Whatever the reasons and the background to it, I think it is a complex issue. I very much welcome it."

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
Trimble: statement says nothing

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble told the Commons: "It is quite significant that this statement says nothing at all about the recent violence that the IRA has been involved in, nothing about what their future conduct is going to be."

And he warned Prime Minister Tony Blair not to waver in penalising paramilitary breaches of the ceasefire.

Ian Paisley Jnr of the Democratic Unionist Party said the IRA's words were "crocodile tears"

A Downing Street source said: "The government clearly regrets all deaths during the Troubles but if this addresses the painful legacy of the past, then it is welcome."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"This statement came as a complete surprise"
BBC NI's Martina Purdy:
"The IRA said there could not be a hierarchy of victims"
Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

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Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

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See also:

16 Jul 02 | N Ireland
16 Jul 02 | Politics
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