1. Archive

Gordon Wilson, peace activist

Peace campaigner Gordon Wilson, who won worldwide acclaim for forgiving the IRA bombers who killed his daughter, died Tuesday. He was 67.

The Irish senator and retired shopkeeper died after a heart attack at his home in Enniskillen, about 70 miles southwest of Belfast.

His 20-year-old daughter Marie was one of 11 Protestant civilians killed by an Irish Republican Army bomb on Nov. 8, 1987.

"I have lost my daughter and we shall miss her. But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge," Mr. Wilson, bruised and bloody after being pulled from the rubble, told the BBC. "It's part of a greater plan, and God is good. . . . And we shall meet again," he said.

Hours earlier his daughter Marie had told him while both were buried under a collapsed wall: "Daddy, I love you very much." She died clutching his hand.

Queen Elizabeth II praised "the depth of his forgiveness." Organizations pressed awards on him. Presidents and prime ministers wrote. Royalty visited Enniskillen.

Former Irish Premier Albert Reynolds, who appointed Mr. Wilson to the Irish Senate in 1993, said he "personified peace and reconciliation."

Once in the spotlight, Mr. Wilson stayed there in hopes of encouraging peace in the British-ruled province.

In 1993, after an an IRA bomb killed two boys in Warrington, northeast England, he met with IRA commanders and begged them to stop. Instead, the IRA sent a statement offering "sincerest condolences and apologies" for his daughter's death.

A despondent Mr. Wilson described the encounter as "quite pointless."

Some Protestants never forgave him for the meeting.

He had a seat of honor at the Irish government's Forum for Peace and Reconciliation, which opened after the IRA ended its campaign against British rule Sept. 1, 1994. Pro-British groups lowered their guns in October.

He brought tears to the eyes of many politicians present when he relayed the lesson of his daughter's killing.

"When you have stood at an open grave and laid to rest bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, it adds . . . an urgency to seek peace," he said.