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'INLA robbed my father of the chance to change'
Published Date: 11 February 2010 A SON of an INLA murder victim reveals his faith has made him able to forgive the killers. Philip Bradfield reports...
BESTremembered for his comment that Catholics should be burned, GeorgeSeawright is not a victim of the Troubles whose fate evokes widespreadsympathy.
But his son Craig, while accepting that his father wasseen as "extreme", remembers with sadness the loss of his "daddy" — andwonders if, like many other extremists, his father might have changedhis views if he had been allowed to live.
The INLA'sannouncement of decommissioning this week brought back memories of thekilling "as fresh as yesterday" for Craig Seawright.
HisScottish-born father was a Belfast City councillor who was expelledfrom the DUP after in 1984 he told an education board meeting onCatholic schools that an incinerator should be acquired in which toburn priests.
He was shot dead while sitting in a car in 1987 by the IPLO, a faction of the INLA. The UVF later claimed him as one of its own.
"Iwas 10 when it happened," says Craig. "I was taken out of my classroomat Springhill Primary School by the headmaster and my younger sisterand cousin were in the corridor waiting for me.
"We knew there was a hit out against my father, I knew right away what had happened.
"The day I feared had come to pass. I felt only angry.
"Thereis a reality my father was a public figure and people saw him as anextreme politician. But to me and my sisters our daddy had been takenaway."
For many years it had an extremely damaging effect on the Seawright family, says Craig.
"It took until my early twenties until I realised that I had to take the choice to forgive."
Thedecision was crucial "in order to free me, my wife and my children fromliving it all out again and from putting bitterness into my young son'smind".
On his father's killers, he says: "If I met them, as acommitted Christian, I would simply want to say that unless they getforgiveness from who really counts, the justice that families like uswould seek is not denied — it is just delayed. I don't bear them anyill will."
Craig says he may have known the name of one of themen responsible, but he believes the man is no longer alive. Nobody wasever charged with the murder. The UVF later killed the man it said wasresponsible — Martin O'Prey.
Married and working full-time,Craig has completed theological training in Wales and Texas and isaiming to become a Bible teacher.
Justice for him is that histwo-year-old son is "freer" from his family's past and the past ingeneral. Justice is the reality that the people of Ardoyne now haveopportunities to be free "from the men that terrorised their community".
"Forgivenessis a big question for many people," he says. "The only personunforgiveness hurts is me and my family — it is the only choice.
"Itis extremely difficult, but as a Christian, God has given me strengthto do it. I can't imagine anyone else doing it without God's strength.
"I am still a unionist and have nationalist friends.
"Iwork with republicans and have learned to live with their views. Iwould like to see us voice those differences but not to let that be areason for conflict and attacking each other.
We have moved on.”
Hisfather’s death had “a profound effect” on his mother, Liz, who wonGeorge’s seat in the council after his murder and won plaudits fromnationalists for visiting a women’s group on the Falls Road. She hasnow withdrawn from public life and suffers from MS, which Craig sees asa physical manifestation of the stresses she suffered, “but she is nowextremely happy, and has dealt with it all in her own way”.
“No matter how extreme my father’s views, the gift of hindsight may have made him a very different man,” adds Craig.
“TheGood Friday Agreement and ceasefires gave other people a chance to stepback and reassess what was best for people they claimed to care about.And then people began to change direction.
“They realised thecompromises that had to be made for the future of Northern Ireland.This may be hard to accept for some people, but my father never had thechance to look at the Troubles with hindsight the way that many lessermen did.”
GOOD SPEECH .EVERYBODY NEEDS FORGIVENES