Corbyn told to see IRA 'for what they are, murderers who tried to kill my wife'
A former MLA has written an open letter to new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, revealing how his wife narrowly escaped death in repeated IRA attacks.
Michael Copeland takes the controversial politician to task regarding his views on Northern Ireland, and reveals his wife Sonia is "lucky to be alive" following a brief career in the RUC.
Taking issue with Mr Corbyn's stance on the IRA, in a letter published in today's Belfast Telegraph, the veteran Ulster Unionist councillor said he'd only married his wife, now a councillor herself for the Titanic area, when her life was put in danger by terrorists bent on murder.
After a series of attempts on her life, Mrs Copeland (57) was medically discharged from the force following an incident unrelated to the Troubles.
Mr Copeland recently stepped down from his position as MLA for East Belfast due to ill-health.
From his home yesterday, he spoke of his admiration for his wife who endured attacks from the IRA, a terrorist organisation Mr Copeland believes the Labour leader has been too reluctant to denounce.
In his letter, he tells Mr Corbyn: "I have no idea what informed your views on Northern Ireland, or shaped the views apparently held by yourself and other members of your front bench team regarding the IRA and Sinn Fein, but I know what shaped mine, walking to school with the smell of gas in the air, falling asleep by counting gunshots, being awakened by bomb explosions.
"The endless funerals of those like myself and my wife who served within the law who were murdered in the most cowardly fashion by terrorists in cold blood, school bus drivers in front of their young passengers, teachers in front of their pupils, fathers in front of their wives, mothers in front of their children, these actions Sir, are not the actions of freedom fighters, they were the actions of terrorists."
In response to the reaction to his letter, posted on Facebook, Mr Copeland has urged people to share it in the hope Mr Corbyn "will get to hear this plaintive voice in the wilderness calling for justice for the real wronged people".
A former serviceman with the Ulster Defence Regiment during the Troubles, Mr Copeland had only been engaged to Sonia, nee Moore, for a week before the first in a number of encounters with terrorists.
She said: "I was stationed at Hastings Street between the Falls and the Shankill and while going to the Springfield Road station, the vehicle was sprayed with machine-gun fire.
"The bullets grazed my throat but the constable beside me was hit and one of the bullets went between the driver and the vehicle commander and it destroyed the vehicle's ability to brake," she said, adding she was only 18 or 19 at the time.
A quick-thinking officer inside Springfield station had the presence of mind to open the gates and the Hotspur landrover was able to coast into the station without crashing and causing further casualties.
Once transferred to the Lisburn Road, she got caught up in another three explosions.
"One of the times we were approaching the old Belgravia Nursing Home when we were bombed.
"I was in between two other officers and one of them lost part of a leg and the other lost part of a hand," she said, recalling the bomb had been left outside the home.
Two further blasts added to her tally of narrow escapes during her brief time on the Lisburn Road.
From there, the young officer, who by then had a young daughter, was stationed in Dundonald where her time in the police was to come to a close when, after being called out to a domestic dispute, she suffered a serious injury to her knee.
Not only did the incident lead to an operation to remove her kneecap but it also put paid to her career in the RUC.