Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Gerry Kelly's jail break interview on BBC Radio Ulster 'an insult'

Mike Nesbitt blasted Gerry Kelly over his radio interview comments
Mike Nesbitt blasted Gerry Kelly over his radio interview comments

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has described a Radio Ulster interview given by Gerry Kelly as "a kick in the teeth for the prospects of reconciliation".

The Sinn Fein MLA was interviewed about his new book, The Escape, which sparked off a public debate after yesterday's Nolan Show.

BBC Northern Ireland was criticised for giving what people claimed was a platform for the former IRA member to promote his self-published book on how 38 republicans escaped from the Maze Prison in 1983.

Mr Kelly initially described his book as "a good yarn," as he described what was "one of the biggest days of his life" on September 25, 1983.

His role on the audacious escape was to take over the 'circle' area of the prison, where the administration was handled.

However, his radio interview with presenter Nolan led to the politician admitting the deaths of victims of the Troubles and its participants were not the same.

While he spoke of how he was moved to hear of the recent personal accounts of relations of people who died and were injured in the Shankill Road bombing 20 years ago, he would not deny shooting a prison officer, or saying who did.

Mr Nesbitt blasted Mr Kelly over his radio interview comments because, whether it was deliberate or not, he was "re-traumatising many families".

"For his victims, his book isn't 'a great yarn', but instead a nightmare relived," said Mr Nesbitt.

"He can write as many books as he likes, but he won't rewrite history.

"He expressed not a morsel of regret for what happened."

A BBC spokeswoman last night said: "The interview on today's Nolan Show had a clear editorial justification and explored a range of topical issues which are very much part of the current news agenda."

BACKGROUND

Former IRA man and Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly was one of 38 republican prisoners who escaped from the Maze Prison in 1983. The prison, or H-Blocks as it was known then, was regarded as the most secure in Europe.

The breakout was the biggest in British security history. Several prison officers were shot or stabbed during the breakout and one later died.

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