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IRA bomber: Victims and God helped me see sense

Jailed terrorist sought forgiveness from those he hurt

By Staff Reporter

Published 04/04/2016

Shane Paul O'Doherty
Shane Paul O'Doherty

A former IRA man who sent a bomb in a Bible to a bishop who was a Roman Catholic chaplain to the British Army went on to question the morality of the armed struggle, it has emerged.

Shane Paul O'Doherty launched an IRA attack in England after Bloody Sunday and bought a copy of Who's Who to decide who to send letter bombs to.

O'Doherty received 30 life sentences for his bombing campaigns but seeing his victims in court was the catalyst that pricked his conscience and sent him on a journey of discovery. Through years of studying the Bible and corresponding with a churchman, he found the truth he had been looking for in the isolation of his solitary cell.

From there, he publicly challenged the morality of armed struggle. He says he is still atoning for his actions and was featured in an RTE One TV programme last night called Atonement: A Would You Believe? Special.

He told the programme: "People in the Rosary bead brigade involved in armed conflict must suffer the pangs of conscience and suffer the requirements of atonement to their last breath. I am in that category."

He added: "Many say to me your crimes and your sins are too great and you shouldn't be associating yourself with the Catholic Church."

His wife Susie said: "I didn't marry an IRA man; I married someone with a past. If you spent any time with Shane you'd realise he's far from the IRA man.

"I did not meet an IRA man but a man who worked in a homeless shelter and who had faith in God."

One of his bombs injured the British Cabinet member in charge of security on Bloody Sunday, Reginald Maudling. He also sent a bomb to Bishop Gerard Tickle, Roman Catholic chaplain to the British Army, after reading a newspaper story quoting the bishop as saying British soldiers did nothing wrong on Bloody Sunday.

Tickle later called the story a "press misrepresentation". The bomb, in a hollowed-out Bible, failed to detonate.

O'Doherty sent a letter bomb to 10 Downing Street and it sat unnoticed in a waste-basket for 24 hours and didn't explode. Other bombs sent by him exploded at the London Stock Exchange, the Bank of England and a government building.

Nobody died from his bombs but a dozen were blinded or maimed. The injured included secretaries and security guards.

He said he joined the IRA in 1970 but left. However, after 14 civil rights marchers were killed by British soldiers in 1972, he rejoined.

But he began to question his actions and said: "I was slowly learning that the righteousness of IRA people with guns and bombs seemed to be wrong at times."

He later sought forgiveness from victims. He said half of them wrote back saying they were grateful for his apology and for his explanation of how they were chosen randomly.

He spent nearly 15 years in jail: "Solitary gave me a sense of freedom. I had all the time to myself to find out who I was and time to search for God."

Belfast Telegraph

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