I regret the deaths but military campaign was necessary, says the Brighton bomber

Brighton bomber Patrick Magee, who planted the bomb which in 1984 came close to killing Margaret Thatcher and other cabinet ministers, yesterday expressed qualified regret that five people died in the attack.

Brighton bomber Patrick Magee, who planted the bomb which in 1984 came close to killing Margaret Thatcher and other cabinet ministers, yesterday expressed qualified regret that five people died in the attack.

Mr Magee, who was jailed for life but released 14 months ago under the Good Friday Agreement, indicated that he now believed the peace process might not have been possible had Lady Thatcher been killed.

In his first interview, given to the Dublin-based Sunday Business Post newspaper, Mr Magee said he did not regret failing in his aim of assassinating the then prime minister.

He declared: "The awareness that it could have been worse actually gave the IRA more leverage than if they had killed her.

"In fact, if half of the British government had been killed it might have been impossible for a generation for the British establishment to come to terms with us."

The bomb which went off inside Brighton's Grand Hotel killed five people and injured dozens. Among these was Margaret Tebbit, wife of Norman Tebbit, who has been paralysed ever since.

Saying he frequently thought of his victims, Mr Magee added: "I regret the deaths at Brighton. I deeply regret that anybody had to lose their lives, but at the time did the Tory ruling class expect to remain immune from what their frontline troops were doing to us?"

During 14 years in prison Mr Magee gained a first-class honours degree and a doctorate in politics in literature. He is said to be a strong supporter of the peace process. He summed up his present attitude: "I have argued that the military campaign was necessary, and equally now I would argue that it is no longer necessary. It's as simple as that."

In Belfast, meanwhile, efforts were under way to mediate in the loyalist feud which last week claimed three lives. A strong security presence is still being maintained in the Shankill area of west Belfast in an attempt to prevent retaliatory attacks.

John White, political spokesman for one of the loyalist groups involved, said he hoped the conflict could be ended without further deaths. He said: "I would hope that there would be a permanent truce in the days that lie ahead... there are a lot of people in both organisations who want to see this come to an end." Four men were last night still being questioned by police about the murder of Sam Rocket, the third victim of the feud, who was buried on Saturday.

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