A man who lost his young wife in the slaughter of the IRA Shankill bombing 16 years ago has spoken about how he “made his peace” with Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon and father-in-law John Frizzell were among those killed in the blast, was in the audience as decommissioning witness Reverend Harold Good delivered a lecture on Hearts and Minds at the West Belfast Festival.
The Sinn Fein leader, who heard the former Methodist president call for a Day of Acknowledgement to address the hurts of conflict, also attended the event.
Mr McBride and Mr Adams, who was a pallbearer at Shankill bomber Thomas Begley’s funeral after the IRA man was killed by his own bomb alongside nine others, have never spoken but they have written to each other.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr McBride said: “Whenever the Shankill bomber (Thomas Begley) was buried and Gerry Adams carried the coffin I found that very difficult.”
He then described his “very personal campaign” against the Sinn Fein leader in the years after the explosion, before saying: “I made my peace with Gerry Adams some years ago.”
Mr McBride, who now works for victims’ group WAVE, wrote to the Sinn Fein president in 2007.
He could not recall whether it was immediately after the funeral of loyalist political leader David Ervine or after Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley entered government.
“David Ervine’s funeral was very important to me. I thought we are so close,” Mr McBride said.
He was talking about the significance of Mr Adams and others attending that funeral, and how close he thought Northern Ireland was to peace after the many years of violence in the country.
“I wrote a letter to Gerry Adams basically just acknowledging his journey. I firmly believe he is totally committed to peace-building,” Mr McBride said.
He revealed that the Sinn Fein president wrote back — a handwritten letter — asking if they could meet.
That has not yet happened, but Mr McBride said he “nearly did it” at Sunday’s West Belfast Festival event.
“I think dialogue is always important,” he told this newspaper, but “sometimes I wonder, are we only preaching to the converted?”
“I do work with a number of folk who lost loved ones,” he added.
“For them it sometimes feels the guys who carried out the atrocities are remarketing themselves.
“There are a number of folk who are feeling increasingly isolated,” he said.
As for a meeting with Gerry Adams, Mr McBride believes that could still happen “because of the letter”, that handwritten note from the Sinn Fein president which he has kept.