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Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Q&A: The IRA's apology
The IRA has taken the unprecedented step of apologising for the deaths of civilians during its campaign of violence in Northern Ireland.
The BBC's Ireland correspondent Anita McVeigh explains the significance of the statement.

What does the statement say?

It apologises to the non-combatants, as it puts it. Using quite militaristic terms it refers to combatants, in other words members of the security forces, and non-combatants, in other words civilians.

It says that on Bloody Friday, July 21 1972, and on other occasions the IRA's actions resulted in the deaths of non-combatants and the IRA offers its sincere apologies and condolences to their families.

How significant is the statement?

It is the first time the IRA has apologised in such strong terms.

On previous occasions the IRA has said it regrets deaths but never before has it said "sincere apologies and condolences".

What happened on Bloody Friday?

This Sunday will be the 30th anniversary of Bloody Friday - when the IRA planted more than 20 bombs around Belfast.

Twenty of them exploded, killing nine people and injuring more than 100 others.

The people who died were both Catholics and Protestants - four bus drivers and two soldiers at a bus depot, two women and a 14-year-old boy at a row of shops.

The victims came from all sections of the community.

Why have the IRA released the statement now?

The anniversary is one reason but the IRA is also trying to create a climate in which progress can be made.

The statement also says the IRA remains totally committed to the peace process.

We can also look back to 4 July when Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern met the pro-Good Friday Agreement parties at Hillsborough Castle.

We heard a lot of talk that if paramilitaries on both sides did not show more commitment to the peace process the devolved government at Stormont could run into trouble.

Finally, earlier this year, Republicans at an event in Dublin commemorated their dead and that was criticised in many quarters as glorifying what the IRA had done.

I think all these reasons create the context in which the statement has been issued.

Find out more about the latest moves in the Northern Ireland peace process

Devolution crisis

Analysis

Background

SPECIAL REPORT: IRA

TALKING POINT

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See also:

16 Jul 02 | N Ireland
16 Jul 02 | Talking Point
16 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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