Belfast Telegraph

I'm no IRA apologist, but I have no regrets over civilian attack comments: BBC's Peter Taylor

'I am not trying to whitewash IRA history'

By Jonny Bell

Veteran BBC reporter Peter Taylor has said he has no regrets saying the IRA did not target civilians as a strategy, but stressed he has not tried to justify the terrorist organisation's campaign or be an apologist for it.

Mr Taylor, who has reported extensively on the Troubles, was criticised for appearing to "trivialise" those victims of the IRA after he made the comments on Saturday's BBC breakfast programme.

He has however, denied this to be the case, saying he was only drawing a comparison between the republican group and the so-called Islamic State.

Mr Taylor, at the weekend, stated: "They killed many civilians, let's not underestimate that, but by and large the IRA tactic was not to deliberately kill civilians - although many civilians, I hasten to add, were killed by the IRA."

Families of victims and survivors of the IRA condemned the comments.

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show, he said he had no regrets over the comments.

"It is important to remember the context in which I answered the question," he said.

"I was asked to explain my view of what the main difference between Islamic extremist groups like Al-Qaeda, the so-called Islamic state and the IRA.

Sinn Fein may attempt to whitewash IRA's history... I am not. Peter Taylor

 

"And I was simply drawing a broad comparison. Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic state deliberately set out to kill as many innocent people as possible and that's epitomised by Al-Queda's attack on New York and Washington on 9/11.

"In contrast the IRA's cardinal policy was not to deliberately go out and massacre civilians. Now I accept and I also qualified it with notable exceptions such as Tullyvallen Orange Hall and Whitecross massacre when protestant workmen were gunned down by the IRA, so there are notable exceptions.

"I was simply making a broad comparison."

Read more: IRA victim's son hits out after Beeb backs journalist's comment

He added: "With regard to Enniskillen the bomb was planted in a position to target security forces. The bomb was placed in a position where civilians were watching and whether or not that was deliberate, I very much doubt it.

"It didn't actually pay the IRA to massacre and kill civilians and you can trace the beginnings of the peace process to that disastrous day."

He added: "I am not and never have been an apologist for the IRA. I am not defending them. All I tried to do was make a simple but important comparison between two different types of quote terrorism unquote.

Mr Taylor said he recognised the hurt felt by victims and survivors and had sympathy for them. He said he had covered their stories extensively in his 44 years covering the conflict from all sides.

"The only similarities - there are huge differences between the organisations - but both use violence to achieve an end," he said.

"IRA used violence primarily - not exclusively - against security forces and former members of the security forces  to achieve what they believed and still believe was the political goal of a united Ireland.

"IS and Al-Qaeda use violence to cause terror, which is what the IRA used violence for, but the goal of Islamic State and Al-Qaeda is very different, essentially they want a global caliphate.

"There are huge idealogical differences between the two and I would not compare them. Both organisations have used and do use terror, that is the commonality.

"I have every sympathy with all that have suffered and I have spoken of the attempts by Sinn Fein to whitewash the IRA's history and I have never been in the business of whitewashing history."

Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said the IRA was involved in brutal sectarian murders and targeted people solely because of their religion and Mr Taylor's comments had caused hurt.

"They took civilian life and that was a judgement call at the time by provisionals.

"This premise that somehow the IRA are distinctly different from Al-Qaeda and ISIS in that they had honour in what they did is flawed.

"There are quite a number of comparisons between the IRA and ISIS. The car bomb that ISIS use to deadly affect has its genesis in the IRA, the use of human bombs - the IRA of course coerced people to act as human bombs in their situation but now there are unfortunately willing volunteers willing to take their own life for ISIS."

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