Thursday, September 27, 2012
Why Harvey Thomas has forgiven the IRA bomber who nearly took his life in the 1984 Brighton Bombing
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
NASHVILLE, TN (ANS) -- Many years ago, while I was still working in the British newspaper mecca of Fleet Street in London, I received a threat from the IRA (Irish Republican Army) for something I had written.
Harvey was in bed at 2:54 am on October 12, 1984, when an IRA bomb exploded in the bathroom of room 629 of the seafront Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, on the final night of the annual Conservative party conference.
The bomb took out a massive section of the hotel and almost killed Thatcher and her cabinet.
It was later discovered that IRA explosives expert Patrick Magee planted a 100 pound timed bomb in the hotel with the intention of assassinating the Prime Minister and her Cabinet who were in residence for the 1984 Conservative Party conference.
The other victims killed by the blast were Eric Taylor and Jeanne Shattock. Several more, including Margaret Tebbit—the wife of Norman Tebbit, who was then President of the Board of Trade—were left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people were taken to hospital but recovered from their injuries.
When Magee was caught, he was sentenced to eight life terms in 1986 with the recommendation that he serve a minimum of 35 years but he was released in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.
Now Harvey Thomas, who has since been made a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth, has forgiven the IRA bomber, met with him several times, and even had him as a guest in his London home.
In an extraordinary interview at the NRB convention in Nashville, Tennessee, which is being broadcast at 5:00 PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday, September 30, 2012, on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com), he shared his story with me.
“Finally, they dug me out without a bone broken. Five of my friends were killed in that bomb. The bomber was an Irish Republican Army man called Patrick McGee. He was caught about a year later and sentenced to eight life sentences for five murders and three attempted murders, one of them was me.
“Then in 1998, fourteen years afterwards, I was really convicted by God while I was speaking at a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, on reconciliation. I felt that I should write to him and say that I forgave him. So I wrote to Patrick McGee and I said, ‘I'm a Christian and I forgive you for what you did.’ I told him that could only speak on my own behalf as ‘I have no right to speak on anyone else's behalf.’
“We talked for hours and then he came over to England and talked to my family in my home and he had breakfast together with us. He told my two daughters, and my wife, ‘I can't believe I'm here as a friend having tried to kill your daddy and (to my wife) your husband.’
“We have become very good friends and now, once or twice a year, we try to do a seminar together on reconciliation. He is very much affected by Christian things. He'll say to me, ‘Keep praying for us,’ and ‘the friends in America haven’t stopped praying for me have they?’”
I then asked Harvey Thomas to give some background as to why the Irish Republican Army had been waging war against the British.
“The brief story is that we, the British, have treated the Catholics in Ireland and those who support a nationalist complete Ireland, abysmally for 200 years,” he said. “I mean in Northern Ireland you couldn't become more than a sergeant in any uniform. You couldn't do anything and it's been very bad.
“In addition, there were riots in the streets of Northern Ireland so the British Army in 1976, in a thing called ‘Bloody Sunday’ shot and killed 14 unarmed Irish demonstrators. Four of those were Pat's friends and Pat said at the time, ‘Look, enough is enough. I will join the Irish Republican Army and I will go to war with the British government.’
“During one of our meetings, I asked Patrick about the bomb in Brighton which was an attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, and he said, ‘I didn't think of it as killing people, because you lose a little of your soul every time somebody's hurt because of your actions. It's like being a captain of a submarine. You put a periscope up you see an enemy aircraft at war you say “my job is to sink that aircraft carrier.” So that's the way I looked at the Grand Hotel.’”
“One friend of mine, who's a very senior politician, wrote to me and said he was very badly injured in the bombing and his wife was made a quadriplegic through it. In his letter he said, ‘Don't you realize there has to be repentance before forgiveness?’ And I wrote back and said, ‘Actually it doesn't. Between man and man, forgiveness is the instruction. Between man and God, yes, there has to be repentance of man before God can forgive. But this is between man and man and mankind and mankind.’
“So we still correspond and he still doesn't forgive and I understand that. I have no criticism of him.”
Since that interview, I met up again with Harvey, with whom I once worked in the offices of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in London, England, and he told me that he had just watched the hit movie, “The Iron Lady”, and was surprised to see that in the first scene of the film, he was being carried out covered from head to toe in dust, from the Brighton hotel.
He said he brought back memories of that terrible night that he nearly lost his life, but also he remembered how he was able to forgive the bomber. What an example to us all!
To hear the latest interview, go to: http://www.assist-ministries.com/FrontPageRadio/FPR09.30.12HarveyThomasMono.mp3
Also, to watch Andy Andrews interviewing Harvey Thomas, Jo Berry, daughter of Sir Anthony Berry, and Patrick Magee, the IRA Brighton Bomber himself, as they talk about the power of forgiveness. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN3A7iZYISM
I would like to thank Robin Frost for transcribing this interview.
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