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Tuesday 30 September 2014

‘I forgive the IRA men who killed my father’ - Jayne Olorunda speaks of confronting her father's killers for the first time

Eoghan McNeill

Published 04/09/2014 | 13:39

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Credit: @jayne_legacy

A woman whose father was killed by an IRA bombing has spoken of meeting and forgiving her father's killers.

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Jayne Olorunda's accountant father, Max, was just 35 when a prematurely-detonated Provisional IRA bomb on a Belfast-bound train killed him in January 1980.

"I was two years old. I'm unfortunate in that I have no recollection of him. I was brought up in a grief-stricken home, with a mother who became extremely depressed and suffered extreme depression from that day," she said, speaking on the Sean O'Rourke show.

Growing up in successive all-white neighbourhoods, half-Nigerian Jayne and her sisters struggled to understand their heritage.

"My parents believed my mum would teach the Northern Irish side of our history to us, and our Dad would teach the Nigerian side. When Dad was taken away, we lost our Nigerian identity. It changed who we were, and our identity, because we lost out on so much," she said. 

Years after her husband's killing, Jayne's mother was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and had regular hospital appointments.

It was in a small taxi booth after a routine appointment in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital ten years ago that Jayne came to face-to-face with her father's killer:

"My mum stood very quietly and looked at a man across the room. I noticed the man look down at me. I knew something wasn't right," said Jayne.

Her mother broke the silence: "Jayne, meet the man who killed your father."

The man in the taxi booth was one of two men convicted of planting the IRA bomb in 1980.

Jayne's mother recognised the man from the court case, and the severe facial injuries inflicted by the bomb's premature explosion.

Jayne described the "stunned silence" and tense atmosphere that followed her mother's introduction.

"For years (my mother) had talked about this man, her hatred towards him, her hatred towards the organisation. I thought that there would be bloodshed. I really thought my mum was going to attack," she said.

Jayne intervened and introduced herself, the man acknowledging he was aware of who she and her mother were.

Having talked to the man for a brief period, Jayne asked him about his involvement in her father's death.

"He said he regretted the death of my father. The atmosphere completely diffused. It resulted in a hug between my mother and this man. This man actually cried. He seemed very sincere," she said.

Jayne forgave the man for his actions, realising it was necessary step to helping her mother beat crippling depression.

"In order for my family to begin to repair, I knew that something had to give. When this man had begun to cry, I don't know how much more I could've gotten from him that day. I wasn't tempted to withhold forgiveness," she said.

Her mother's act of forgiveness allowed her to let go of a decade's "bitterness," which had impacted severely on her mental health, said Jayne.

Jayne, a member of the Northern Irish Alliance party tells her family's story in "Legacy," a self-published book and memorial to late-father, Max, available from Amazon.

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