Page last updated at 07:19 GMT, Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Family meet killer in new series

Milltown killer Michael Stone
Loyalist killer Michael Stone meets the family of his victim

Loyalist killer Michael Stone is due to meet the relatives of one of his victims in a new BBC Two series.

In Facing the Truth - to be televised in March - the victims and perpetrators of the NI Troubles meet in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The archbishop chairs a meeting between the east Belfast gunman and the widow and brother of a man he murdered.

During the encounter the archbishop declared: "It is God who is present in this moment".

The archbishop oversees the meetings, enabling unprecedented dialogue between those responsible for violence and those who were hurt during the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Archbishop Tutu draws on his experiences to enable the individuals to tell their stories, face-to-face with people once considered adversaries.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate - who led South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission - said there were some "extraordinary moments" making the series.

"I think human beings are incredible... and I've seen examples here of the fact that it really is possible that we will see a resolution of the problems and people will say, as we did in South Africa, why were we so stupid for so long?" he said.

"I have a good sense that Northern Ireland is going to be held up one day as a place where we thought the problems were intractable and you see they were intractable - just look at how well they're getting on together."

Stone became notorious when television cameras captured his gun and grenade attack on mourners at an IRA funeral in Milltown cemetery in 1988 killing three people.

When questioned by police about the attack, Stone confessed to another three murders including that of Dermot Hackett.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said there were extraordinary moments

Stone claims his target was legitimate because he was shown files that "proved Mr Hackett was an IRA man", an allegation the family firmly deny.

Other encounters in Facing the Truth include Clifford Burrage - a British soldier who shot and killed 22-year-old Michael McLarnon - and Mary McLarnon, his sister.

Speaking at the press launch in Belfast, Roly Keating, Controller BBC Two, said the programme was "groundbreaking current affairs"

"It promises to be powerful event television and we've placed it in the heart of the BBC Two schedule for three consecutive nights to create maximum impact with as wide an audience as possible," he said.

BBC executive producer Jeremy Adams said "the participants all said it had been a worthwhile, even helpful experience".

"We were waiting for the first person to say they wished they had never done it, but that didn't happen," he said.

"Some were astonished that, while painful, it had helped them move forward. Desmond Tutu said it had been one of the most important things he had ever been involved in and that he too felt it offered a way forward."

Each of the encounters was filmed at a country house in Ballywalter, near Newtownards.

Facing the Truth is to be shown in the week commencing Saturday, 4 March.


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