Irish Republican Army apologizes for deaths it caused in last 30 years

Tuesday, July 16th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) _ The Irish Republican Army issued an unprecedented apology Tuesday for the deaths of ``noncombatants'' over 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland.

The IRA made the apology in a statement marking the anniversary of Bloody Friday, when it set off more than 20 bombs within an hour in Belfast on July 21, 1972, killing seven civilians and two soldiers.

Although the outlawed organization has stated its regret in the past for individual acts, it has not previously issued so sweeping an apology. The statement said the step aimed to improve the atmosphere in the territory's peace process.

Pointing to Bloody Friday, the statement said that ``while it was not our intention to injure or kill noncombatants, the reality is that on this and on a number of other occasions, that was the consequence of our actions.''

``It is, therefore, appropriate on the anniversary of this tragic event, that we address all of the deaths and injuries of noncombatants caused by us,'' the statement said.

``We offer our sincere apologies and condolences to their families.''

The outlawed organization also acknowledged the grief of the families of slain combatants _ police, soldiers and loyalist paramilitaries.

The IRA said the future would not be found in ``denying collective failures and mistakes or closing minds and hearts to the plight of those who had been hurt. That includes all of the victims of the conflict, combatants and noncombatants.

``It will not be achieved by creating a hierarchy of victims in which some are deemed more or less worthy than others,'' the statement said.

It also said the process of conflict resolution required the acknowledgment of the grief and loss of others.

``On this anniversary, we are endeavoring to fulfill this responsibility to those we have hurt,'' the IRA said.

The statement added: ``The IRA is committed unequivocally to the search for freedom, justice and peace in Ireland.

``We remain totally committed to the peace process and to dealing with the challenges and difficulties which this presents. This includes the acceptance of past mistakes and of the hurt and pain we have caused to others.''

Among the more than 3,600 people killed in political-sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, Britain and the Republic of Ireland since 1968, the IRA and rival anti-British groups were responsible for more than 2,000 dead.