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16 October 2014
BBC NI - Eyewitness

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Martin McKevitt is a former official IRA activist who works for An Eochair, an ex-prisoners' support group for official republican prisoners Image of Martin McKevitt

From my early days in the official IRA, my whole concept of joining the IRA was specifically to get the British out of Ireland like a lot of other Republicans, while behind this there was a message coming back from Wolfe Tone, a United Irishman, and what we wanted was the unity of Catholic, Protestant and the dissenter.

Of course I now realise that by being engaged in an armed conflict against the British state, I was being sectarian, because the unionist population, the vast majority of them, seen themselves as British. And when I was attacking the British state, I was attacking them and their ethos. As time went on, through the Troubles, I came to the realisation that this conflict had become totally sectarianised - that it was a sectarian war.

Now, the official republican movement were the first to distance themselves from the armed conflict, but while doing that, we sort of built ourselves a nice ivory tower where we knew what was right, everyone else was wrong, and they must give up their beliefs and their values and come follow us into a new socialist Ireland.

What I believe now is that we should be coming together as a society, not as separate communities - come together, everyone in their own right, but we've got to come to an accommodation. And it's my belief that political parties have to work towards that accommodation before we can move away from sectarian politics to a more realistic and inclusive politics - politics that excludes no-one. That is going to be the way forward, and at the end of the day, all the killings over thirty-odd years of conflict were futile, they were wrong, and we all of us have some degree of blame in it.

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