AITRHÍ - FULL TIME CODED TRANSCRIPT

AITRHÍ - FULL TIME CODED TRANSCRIPT

 

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There is nothing democratic about begin born.

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You have no control over the time and place where you enter this world.

 

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You have to accept your name. My parents, Catholics, called me Shane Paul.

 

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The middle name, in honor of Saint Paul.

 

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Birth also imposes nationality, religion, language, culture and family.

 

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The worst thing about being born on Jan, 25th, 1955, was not the extreme cold and snow.

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No, the worst thing was being born in the city of Derry

 

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to an Irish Catholic and nationalist family,

 

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fourteen years before the IRA began a new

 

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campaign to drive the British from Ireland.

 

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I was born simultaneously in two places. Catholic nationalists call my city

 

 

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by its Irish name, Derry, protestant Unionists, pro-britisn people,

 

 

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call it by its British name, Londonderry,

 

 

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so the name of my city was problematic.

 

 

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Derry was a city which had a Catholic and nationalist majority,

 

 

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but it was controlled by the powerful Protestant Unionist minority

 

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who used "gerrymander" to seize and maintain power.

 

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That situation was not last forever

 

 

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and i was born just in time for the horrible change.

 

 

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So, I say procreation is like a revolution:

 

 

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there is nothing democratic about it.

 

 

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Title credit: Aitrhí (Repentant)

 

 

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When i was just five years old, i was playing with my childhood protestant friend Scully.

 

 

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One day, out of the blue, he said to me: "You're a Catholic, you worship the Virgin Mary

 

 

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and you are gonna burn in hell forever".

 

 

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I was pretty sucked by this extreme rejection.

 

 

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It was at this time I begun to read some simple history books about Ireland.

 

 

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It was the discovery of the tragedies of Irish history

 

 

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that caused my early desire to join the IRA, the Irish Republic Army.

 

 

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Unjust British rule, mass emigration, the potato famine in the nineteenth century,

 

 

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our struggle for independence, and the terrible Irish civil war.

 

 

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All of this things that a read about give a passioned conviction

 

 

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that we catholics had a just cause to see

 

 

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a United Ireland and the end to British occupation and borders forever.

 

 

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In fact, one day when I was ten years old I wrote on a piece of paper

 

 

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I, Shane Paul O'Doherty, when I grow up I want to fight

 

 

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and, if necessary, die for the freedom of Ireland.

 

 

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I hid this simple piece of paper under a floorboard in the attic

 

 

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where almost 15 years later, police found my childish scrawl.

 

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But it was really like a premonition.

 

 

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The childhood patriotism i felt, along with my reading of history,

 

 

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absolutely convinced me that one day i would be a part of a

 

 

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struggle in another IRA campaign to free Ireland.

 

 

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In fact, i was already becoming free disposed to

 

 

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martyrdom and heroism of an IRA kind.

 

 

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However, fate was already planning to give us a struggle

 

 

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and first clear signs of this coming were in 1966.

 

 

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The Ulster Volunteer Force shot dead two Roman Catholics because they were Catholic.

 

 

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This paramilitary protestant organization was showing that in 1966 life in Northern Ireland

 

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could not only supply Catholics with job discrimination, mass emigration,

 

 

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second class citizenship but also execution as enemies of protestant Ulster.

 

 

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Later, the Ulster Volunteer Force placed and exploited the first bombs in Northern Ireland.

 

 

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aimed against protestant Primer Minister who was trying to make better relations

 

 

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with the Irish Republic and also better relations with Catholics in Northern Ireland.

 

 

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In Derry and in other areas in Northern Ireland the first protests movement began.

 

 

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This lead to street protests which quickly became violent.

 

 

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They were violently repressed by the protestant police forces.

 

 

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Shortly after, the Norther Ireland Civil Rights Movement was form.

 

 

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It was an imitation of the American Civil Rights movement inspired by Martin Luther King.

 

 

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But the Civil Rights Movement with mass street protests

 

 

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did not realize that it was not only going to promote Civil Rights for Catholics,

 

 

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it was going to sake the very Government of Northern Ireland to unjust foundations.

 

 

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By 1968, when I was 13, Civil Rights demonstrations were very frequent

 

 

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and they were constantly oppressed by arm police CS gas.

 

 

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They were terrible riots all around the city, particularly near where I lived.

 

 

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Suddenly, law and order in the city was breaking down. They were almost total civil chaos.

 

 

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Things were so bad by 1969 that thousands and thousands of british soldiers

 

 

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were put on the street of Derry to maintain order.

 

 

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We welcome the soldiers because they defend us from

 

 

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the protestant police and protestant government and protestant paramilitary police forces.

 

 

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However, within a year or two, soldiers began to shoot dead young Catholics rioters.

 

 

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Everybody was looking for the IRA.

 

 

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I was 15 and i was walking to school one day when my best friend said:

 

 

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You wanna join the IRA tomorrow evening? I just said: Yeah, sure. Let´s do it!!!.

 

 

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The next evening we meet some guys in a flat in the city center

 

 

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and they said: are you sure you wanna join the IRA?

 

 

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You may lose your life, you may lose your life fighting for Ireland,

 

 

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you may spend your life in prison, you can be blowing up, shoot,

 

 

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you can be tortured, interrogated, do you understand what you are getting into?

 

 

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Of course, we didn´t, we were 15 years of age.

 

 

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We were sworn into the IRA, really, we were child soldiers.

 

 

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Within a short time,

 

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they had us planting devices, they train us in guns, all guns, small guns.

 

 

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And we went out in the streets against highly trained british army soldiers

 

 

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who had tanks and helicopters and all kind of weapons.

 

 

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Here we were, 15 years of age, firing small guns at patrols of british soldiers.

 

 

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I remember the first time in a riot, we sneak up to a police station

 

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where a young british soldier was standing holding a rifle,

 

 

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he was probably half-sleep. Two of us ran up close him,

 

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I pulled out the gun and i fire as many of the six shoots as i could.

 

 

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And it was exacting to have been in action like in a movie

 

 

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and some young girls saw us running away and we felt we were heroes, heroes for Ireland.

 

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One evening, two IRA man rung the doorbell of my house in this nice protestant neighborhood

 

 

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and said: We can´t get the bomb to this house!!.

 

 

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Can you store it in your house in the back garage or somewhere until we can try again.

 

 

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I said: Sure, sure i can do this. I didn´t even know what a bomb was.

 

 

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That night about 2 a.m. i went to the garage and i saw a fuse with some matches around it.

 

 

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I took the bomb to the front of the building. Got a box of matches,

 

 

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struck the matches on the fuse, saw a light and i run like hell.

 

 

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I was in bed when this massive explosion rocked the city.

 

 

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Everybody in Derry heard it. Was the first big bomb in the city.

 

 

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Next day the IRA were asking: who planted the bomb? And later,

 

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I came to an IRA safe house and said: I planted the bomb.

 

 

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And while they were angry that I did this without permission, they were delighted

 

 

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they had a young volunteer who was wiling to be active who was unafraid.

 

 

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And that was me. I was wiling to be active and I wasn´t afraid.

 

 

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I was too crazy and too young to be afraid.

 

 

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After this I became the only volunteer who wanted to work with explosives.

 

 

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And soon after I am making trap bombs that destroy Derry, city center, then I am doing booby traps

 

 

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then I was making land mines in the border. I invented letter bombs for the IRA.

 

 

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I was sent to London alone to bomb London for a summer. I was 18 years of age.

 

 

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I made letter bombs and sent them and there were the first letter bombs ever in Britain.

 

 

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One went then to 10 Downing Street, one blew up a general, one went to the Stock Exchange,

 

 

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one went to… You know, judges, generals. I even got a bomb to the home secretary who was in charge when 13 people were murdered on Bloody Sunday. I blew him up.

 

 

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Suddenly this was the biggest news. Radio, TV, newspapers… The IRA was delighted.

 

 

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It had London brought to its knees for one young volunteer. So in the newspapers in London, I was described as the baby face bomber.

 

 

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I planted bombs at two stations. I planted some bombs on cars in the city center.

 

 

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Some shops… But the letter bombs were taking most of the headlines.

 

 

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I came back to Ireland and I was bombing on the border, then I was bombing in Derry.

 

 

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Soon I had been bombing for 4 or 5 years.

 

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And I was most wanted man in London. And most wanted man in Northern Ireland after the London bombings. 

 

 

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Living like this was both exciting and fearful

 

 

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You were always excited with adrenalin each day you were fighting possibly for the last day.

 

 

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You could be dead by night time.  Each morning you were fearful.

 

 

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But soon when you were involved in action, you were filled with adrenaline.

 

 

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The patriotism continued but something new had entered

 

 

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Something new entered which was the horror of war, injuring civilians,

 

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some letter bombs injured innocent people, some bombs injured innocent people; children, women.

 

 

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And there was a crisis of patriotism, a crisis of action, a crisis of innocent civilians,

 

 

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but always the need to serve the IRA and serve the struggle.

 

 

 

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So, we came to 1975. And there was a big ceasefire between the IRA and the British government.

 

 

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Everybody could go home in December 1974. After four or five months, I went home

 

 

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and I was only there a matter of hours. A police patrol arrested me.

 

 

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Within a few months I was released and taken to London only to face the serious charges of London bombings.

 

 

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I was given 30 life sentences and 20 years.

 

 

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I went into to prison, refused to wear criminal uniform, was naked in solitary for 15 months.

 

 

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There was a huge crisis in my mind about war, justice,

 

 

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peace, human’s rights, prisoner’s rights.

 

 

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I had a terrible argument one day with a jesuit priest shouting ‘Where is the proof your God exists?’

 

 

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and he answered me as he left my cell ‘Why? The four gospels, of course’.

 

 

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So I demanded a copy of ‘The four gospels’, I read ‘The four gospels’ in one evening.

 

 

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You know, I had a noble cause. I had a secret cause. But it was a political cause using violence.

 

 

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And in support of my cause I was prepared to injure or kill.

 

 

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Suddenly I am reading about this other revolutionary who only used peaceful meanings.

 

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He had a divine cause, a secret cause … He didn’t use any violence.

 

 

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He was prepared to suffer more than to enact violence or hurt people.

 

 

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But I was horribly convicted by my conscience over the injuries to human beings,

 

 

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the injustices I had caused in trying to cure injustices.

 

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I had caused more injustices than I had cured.

 

 

 

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But my conscience became like a huge pain to me.

 

 

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And I discovered something I had not thought about it, you know, sin, injustice.

 

 

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I read a paragraph by a jesuit: ‘Sin has three consequences:

 

 

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it divided you from people, and I was in solitary confinement,

 

 

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it divided you from yourself and I had terrible problems of conscience

 

 

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and it divided you from God or the idea of God, and I felt that i had cut myself of from God.

 

 

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And my thinking was I had to restore relationships with people trough apologizing,

 

 

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I had to restore relationships with myself admitting I was wrong,

 

 

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and I had to restore relationships with a sense of God by being just to people by apologizing.

 

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So, from solitary confinement as the hero in prison, suddenly I left solitary confinement and I asked to write letters of apologize to my victims.

 

 

 

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Everybody thought it was a joke: the British Government, the police, the prison system,

 

 

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the prisoners, the IRA prisoners. Everybody thought ‘this guy has gone mad’.

 

 

 

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But I fought a campaign for a year and I wrote letters of apology to my victims. I published a letter in an Irish newspaper saying ‘Cold off the war’.

 

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Everybody thought I was crazy: friends, family .. but I made a decision not

 

 

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to give mi life to the IRA forever but to take my life back, take control of my life

 

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and become my own person, making my own decisions, following my own beliefs.

 

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It was a dangerous time. Some persons in the IRA in prison threaten me, threaten to kill me.

 

 

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threaten to kill me. The majority of IRA prisoners ignore me for the next 8 years.

 

 

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Even now I was not in solitary confinement, I enter more solitary confinement because nobody would speak to me. I was the person that no one would speak to in prison.

 

 

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I spent 14 and a half years in prison. Then I was released to go to University,

 

 

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and I went on the media, and I was the first voice in Northern Ireland saying: ‘Cold off the war’, ‘Stop the war in the name of the people..’,

 

 

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‘..in the name of human rights, respect for life, respect for citizens, no matter what the religion or nationality’

 

 

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So my voice caught some people. I spoke to members of the IRA, interview them for newspapers asking them about peace.

 

 

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Soon, the idea of peace and taking about peace, taking to the enemy, soon it became possible.

 

 

 

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I wrote a book, a book about my life recommending an end to war, recommending talks before arms struggle.

 

 

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And so, in the course of a few years, persons in the IRA listen to this arguments

 

 

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and generated their own arguments, perhaps from my arguments and we began a peace process.

 

 

 

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It is a strange business to look back on life and see that I was bombing for five years

 

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trying to kill soldiers and trying to bomb cities

 

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and then looking back al 14 and a half years in prison. It is a strange business to come back into the world.

 

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but always in everywhere I remember and people remind me

 

 

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that I was a freedom fighter or a terrorist.

 

 

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The fact is if I was a freedom fighter we used the technique of terrorism widely.

 

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but you know it´s difficult to come to terms with, every single day, every single evening, nearly every hour of mi life,

 

 

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I remember the war and I remember my part in the war.

 

 

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I never forget the five years of conflict and struggle, I never forget my victims,

 

 

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they are in my mind everyday. I never forget my young comrades or friends

 

 

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who gave their life, rather fullsily, when we were 16, 17, 18 years of age.

 

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I never forget our enemies that we killed: young police officers, young soldiers. They are in mind everyday.

 

 

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There is like a war occurring in my mind that I carry with me everyday from the past.

 

 

 

 

 

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What have I learn? What can I give? How can I justify to victims that I continue a normal life?

 

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How can I justify seizing a normal life with my past?. I am not sure.

 

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I am sure that I learn some lessons from the war.

 

 

 

 

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All young men have the romance of weapons and fighting and heroism and martyrdom.

 

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It´s hard to eradicate this from the minds of young men. Only the passages of time and the rule of victims

 

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and the horror of war changed us. In my case, I am glad I was in prison for 14 years.

 

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That tell me to grow as an individual and become the person I am. 

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There is some lessons of my life that I share with young people in colleges and schools

 

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and universities: It´s never too late to turn back from doing evil.

 

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It´s never too late to try to make a new life.

 

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It´s never too late to apologize and say ‘I am sorry for the wrong I have done’,

 

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‘I am sorry for the wrong I have done and I hope everyday of my life contributes to the good’.

 

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‘Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future’ – Oscar Wilde

 

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A film by Carlos Hernando

 

 

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to victims of all fanaticism

 

 

 

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