A former member of the IRA has questioned whether the terror campaign during the Troubles was “worth one life”, as he called for the implementation of a truth forum.
rendan Hughes, a 74-year-old former commander and founding member of the Provisional IRA in Co Tyrone, said he didn’t regret taking part in the decades-long conflict to “defend my community” but did question what was achieved.
Mr Hughes was a prominent member in the IRA during the 1970s, masterminding a 1973 breakout of three senior figures in the organisation from Mountjoy Prison in Dublin.
Speaking to the Irish News, Hughes also said he made “a few bad” decisions he does regret and now hopes for the establishment of a truth-telling body to aid reconciliation.
The Tyrone man served three separate stretches in prison totalling more than 22 years.
The veteran republican was sidelined by the IRA in the mid-1970s after taking part in robberies for his own benefit, a breach of IRA rules.
During the interview, Mr Hughes said he is now committed to peace and politics and persuading unionists of the benefits of a future united Ireland.
“If you are in charge of a unit and have a life in the palm of your hand and you have to make a decision – I made a few bad ones and some of the bad ones I would not want to talk about and I do regret,” he told the newspaper.
“When you have delivered a folded flag to a widow with empty eyes flanked by two or three children – who would want to go back to that?
“If on the morning of internment I had walked out the door and met someone and they had said ‘here is what you will achieve and here’s what it is going to cost you’ – I would have made my lunch up and gone to work.
“But having said that I can’t say I regret that I had an opportunity to defend my community and I would do it again.
“I am not sure what we achieved was it worth one life never mind thousands of lives?”
In July Secretary of State Brandon Lewis set out a package of measures to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, including a statute of limitations on prosecutions and an end to civil actions and inquests.
The proposals have been criticised by all Stormont’s Executive parties, as well as the Irish Government and victims’ groups.
Mr Hughes said in his view a truth forum should be set up, adding he would be “first in line” to play his part.
“If anyone wanted to know anything about what I was involved in I would be there,” he added.
“Everybody should come out and say ‘we did it and that’s why we did it’.
“I feel very strongly about truth and reconciliation because there will be no reconciliation until the truth is revealed.
“It is only when we can come to terms with the truth that you can reconcile your differences with other people.
“It was a dirty little colonial war and nobody came out winners.”