‘We hope to be lifelong friends’

Mayor Colr. Sean McGlinchey with Bill and Jean Jefferson and the artwork they contributed to the community room. (0203PG69)
Mayor Colr. Sean McGlinchey with Bill and Jean Jefferson and the artwork they contributed to the community room. (0203PG69)
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The Mayor of Limavady has spoken of his friendship with a relative of victims in the IRA bomb in Coleraine, for which he was convicted, in a bid to give hope to others affected by the Troubles.

Sean McGlinchey has formed a “lifelong” friendship with Jean Jefferson, whose aunt died and dad was badly injured in the blast, which killed six civilians in 1973. When appointed mayor, Unionists demanded he step down but, what emerged was an extraordinary tale of forgiveness from Mrs Jefferson who forgave the Sinn Fein councillor.

“Jean and I have a normal friendship,” the mayor told the ‘Journal’ at a reception Mrs Jefferson attended this week.

“We have, what I would describe as, a simple friendship, and I’d like to think our friendship will give hope to others and show there is another way of moving forward, other than enquiries.

“Millions of pounds have been spent on enquiries and, where do you draw the line, and what do they really achieve?

“Now that’s my personal opinion because I know, for many people, enquiries are an important part of the healing process, but I want to make sure there are no more deaths like Ronan Kerr, or any more Massereene Barracks; that’s why I got into politics.

“Meeting Jean has given me great encouragement to keep on doing what I’m doing. Meeting victims and their loved ones is beneficial and Jean and her husband Bill are remarkable people and they made meeting them easy for me. Meeting Jean has been a massive blessing.”

Mrs Jefferson accepts some people who have lost loved ones in terrorist attacks won’t understand why she met Mr. McGlinchey, but said: “It has changed my life that someone who did so much wrong, and has lived to regret it, had the guts to say that openly,” she told the Journal of her friendship with the Mayor.

“Sean considers us as friends and we consider him and his family as friends. There is a very special bond there that we will retain. My dad lived to tell the tale and said ‘I forgive”’ and he encouraged my sister and I to say we also forgive and I’ve had a lot of encouragement for what has happened.

“I have many acquaintances, but few friends, and I’d consider Sean a friend.”