Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brighton Victim Forgives Bomber

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Brighton Victim Forgives Bomber

Article excerpt

IT is nearly 17 years after the IRA blew up the Grand Hotel in Brighton, almost taking the Tory Cabinet with it.

Now Margaret Thatcher's former press adviser and conference organiser Harvey Thomas, who plunged through three floors on that fateful night during the 1984 Conservative Conference, has come face to face with the man who committed the deed.

Mr Thomas, a committed Christian and a long-time supporter of the American evangelist Billy Graham, met Patrick Magee, who planted the device, on a recent business trip to Ireland.

The bomb claimed five lives, including those of Tory MP Sir Anthony Berry and Roberta Wakeham, first wife of Lord Wakeham, and maimed Lord Tebbit's wife Margaret, who has been in a wheelchair ever since. Magee was released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement having served 14 years in prison.

"I sent him a letter three years ago when he was in the Maze prison," Mr Thomas says. "I felt I ought to offer forgiveness. It's just a tiny wee step in the field of reconciliation. I wrote as an individual and a Christian, certainly not on behalf of anyone else. He responded with a very courteous, thoughtful letter."

Mr Thomas wrote to Magee again, suggesting they might like to talk, shortly after he was released from the Maze and it was this letter, forwarded to him at a secret address in Dublin, which led to their meeting nine months ago.

"It was all arranged by intermediaries," says Thomas. "It was fixed up by someone who knew how to reach him in Dublin. I got into a taxi from the centre of Dublin and we went to the suburbs.

"I spent two hours with him.

He was very educated and well-informed. He clearly felt extremely strongly that the way ahead was through dialogue and not violence. I found him extremely genuine, courteous, warm and not at all arrogant. He is a doctor of philosophy, although I think he is now working as a builder. …

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