A former IRA bomber is urging Pope Francis to consider beatifying judges and their family members who were murdered by republican terrorists in Northern Ireland.
In an open letter to the Holy Father, Shane Paul O’Doherty points out that the Vatican recently announced that Italian judge Rosario Livatino, who was killed by gunmen in the Sicilian mafia in 1990, is to be beatified as a martyr.
In a decree of martyrdom, the Holy Father recognised that Livatino had been murdered for his faith, likening his killing to a hate crime against the Catholic faith.
In his letter to the pontiff, O’Doherty writes: ‘I want to tell you about a number of judges, lawyers and family members who were murdered in Northern Ireland by terrorists of the IRA.
‘I want you to consider beatifying as martyrs these innocent victims of the IRA.
‘I write to you as a former member of the IRA who has repented.’
The list of victims includes barrister Edgar Graham, Lord Justice Maurice Gibson and his wife Cecily, magistrate Martin McBirney and Judges Rory Conaghan, William Doyle and William Staunton.
The list also includes Mary Travers, who was killed in 1984, aged 22, in a failed assassination attempt on her father, the late Judge Tom Travers. Judge Travers was shot six times but survived the attack. He died in 2009.
It also includes Robin and Maureen Hanna and their six-year-old son David, who were blown up in a land mine attack as they were returning from a vacation in Disneyland, Florida. The bomb had been intended to murder Justice Eoin Higgins and his wife, who were traveling in their car toward Belfast, but the IRA mistook the Hanna’s car for Justice Higgins’.
Recalling his prison conversion, O’Doherty told The Catholic Universe: “I read the Gospels for the first time in my solitary cell in Wormwood Scrubs and they changed my life then and since – I was so shocked by Jesus’ warnings about sin that I couldn’t wait to leave the IRA.
“I fought a year-long campaign to be allowed to apologise to my victims back then – an unprecedented matter – all because of Mt5:23-24.”
O’Doherty also recalled how Cardinal Basil Hume became a regular visitor to him during his time in Wormwood Scrubs – where he repented his IRA membership – and how the cardinal had told him of his former pupil at Ampleforth College, Captain Robert Nairac. The IRA killed Captain Nairac in 1977 and his body has never been found.
“I never give up pressing his case with republicans even now, as I promised Basil Hume I would do all those years ago,” O’Doherty said.
Picture: Shane Paul O’Doherty.