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Rita Restorick:
"Seeing the men released brings all the emotions back"
 real 28k

Sunday, 30 July, 2000, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Soldier's mother 'accepts' releases

Stephen Restorick: Last soldier killed in the Troubles
The mother of the last British soldier murdered in Northern Ireland has said the early release of paramilitary prisoners was painful but necessary.

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot by IRA sniper, Bernard McGinn at a checkpoint in Bessbrook, County Armagh when he was aged 23, in February 1997.

McGinn was one of the last wave of 86 republican and loyalist prisoners freed early on Friday under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement peace accord and blueprint for Northern Ireland devolution.

Bernard McGinn: Convicted of Restorick murder
Bernard McGinn: Convicted of Restorick murder
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Rita Restorick said his release was "very difficult for us, as it has been for other victims' families".

The four-man team behind Stephen Restorick's murder was arrested two months after he was shot dead.

Last year McGinn, from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, was jailed for life for the murder and for shooting dead two other soldiers.

He was also sentenced to a total of 490 years for a catalogue of terrorist offences including making the bombs destined for Canary Wharf, the Baltic Exchange and Hammersmith Bridge in London.

Another convicted member of the IRA team, Michael Carraher, jailed for a total of 105 years, was also released on Friday.

Mrs Restorick said she hoped their releases "will help the peace process. I am very doubtful at times that it will, but we choose to believe that it will".

"I think I have treated it in a rather detached way up until now, but actually seeing the men released, just brings the emotions back again. It is very difficult."

'I want to meet Stephen's killer'

She said that she understood the opposition of many victims' families to the early releases.

"It is so painful to see these people released from prison after doing very short sentences after doing horrible crimes, whether it is shooting somebody or placing a bomb.

"It is very hard and it is totally understandable that families do feel very cheated that these people have been released early," she said.

But she added that she wants to meet her son's killer.

"I would try to make them see the person within the uniform, the young man that they killed and the pain they caused his family, and in turn I would listen to them about the pain of their family and their community's experiences.

"It would be a two way process and I think it would be valuable process for both of us."

'Debt to society'

Mrs Restorick said that she hoped her son's killers and other former prisoners could still make a contribution and pay their debt to society.

"I think he has to pay in the future by his actions. I consider that part of his penalty.

"We hope that these men who have been released will help the peace process along and try to achieve their goals through political means.

"They can also do it by respecting the terms of their licences in not associating with paramilitary groups who haven't called ceasefires and also by encouraging the young people within their community that their aims can't be achieved by violence that if you try to create a united Ireland by violence, you just turn the Protestant and unionist people against you.

"You have to work together and find some compromise that you can live with and see what develops from there," she said.

Mrs Restorick added that although the pain of losing her son has eased over the three years since he was shot, it does not take much to bring it all flooding back.

"I had to leave work through ill health six months after Stephen was killed. I have written a book in the meantime about Stephen's death and my introduction to Northern Ireland and its politics and I must say, its lovely people.

"But basically, I just keep myself busy. The terrible pain of losing Stephen has eased over the three years, but there are times when it just comes flooding back. I still think about him all the time."

A total of 428 republican and loyalist prisoners have been freed early over a period of just under two years.

Just 16 prisoners, who did not qualify for early release are still imprisoned in the Maze.

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See also:

28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Profiles: Paramilitary killers released
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
The prison that served its time
15 Feb 00 | Northern Ireland
Prison officers apply to leave service
09 Jan 98 | Northern Ireland
Inside the Maze Prison
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
NI prisoners savour freedom
28 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Emotions high over Maze releases
27 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
The Maze: The prison officer's story
04 May 00 | Northern Ireland
Maze prison closure on target
19 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Killer loses release challenge
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