IRA holds 'friendly' talks with campaigning senator

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The Independent Online
The leadership of the IRA last night announced that it had held a secret meeting with Gordon Wilson, the Fermanagh businessman and member of the Irish Senate whose daughter Marie was killed by an IRA bomb in Enniskillen in 1987.

A statement issued in Dublin said the meeting had taken place in Northern Ireland. Mr Wilson asked for the encounter following the Warrington bombing, saying he would ask the republicans to end their campaign of violence.

An IRA statement said the meeting had been 'friendly and forthright', involving two IRA members and lasting more than two hours. It said: 'Senator Wilson expressed his views and our representatives listened respectfully. This meeting, in the north itself, shows that dialogue can hurt no one.'

Mr Wilson has been a campaigner for peace ever since his daughter's death in the Poppy Day bombing in which he himself was injured. He has appeared at a number of peace rallies since the Warrington killings, and asked for the meeting last month. He said last night that he would issue a full statement on it today.

The IRA said its representatives had read a statement expressing 'sincerest condolences and apologies' for the death of Mr Wilson's daughter. The statement welcomed the fact that he had publicly acknowledged that republicans had also suffered and experienced grief.

It went on to call for dialogue with all those involved, calling for courage and leadership and declaring: 'For our part, we in the IRA will not be found wanting in this regard.'

Before the meeting Mr Wilson said: 'I am going to see them as Marie Wilson's dad. I would hope to look them eye to eye and speak to them as one of humanity as I am, as people who have suffered as I have, and as have 3,000 people in Northern Ireland and now people have in Warrington.'

Earlier this year Mr Wilson was appointed as a member of the Irish Senate by the Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds.

He said in a speech in the Senate two weeks ago that the IRA was composed of human beings who had also suffered from violence.

Republicans have publicly treated Mr Wilson with some respect. One Sinn Fein leader last month paid tribute to his courage and fortitude and wished him well.

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