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sick attack Man (43) given letter of apology from IRA after he was 'crucified' in punishment attack

Dad-of-six was wrongly accused of biting an IRA man's ear off

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Paul Reid received an apology from the IRA through the CRJ

Paul Reid received an apology from the IRA through the CRJ

Paul Reid received an apology from the IRA through the CRJ

A father of six who was 'crucified' in a savage Provo punishment attack as a teenager has finally received an apology from the IRA.

Belfast man Paul Reid (43) was informed in writing that a man representing the IRA agreed the frenzied and vicious assault on him "was wrong and should never have happened".

"As far as I'm concerned, it's as close as you can get to an apology," he told the Sunday World this week from his west Belfast home.

Taxi driver Paul says he was a teenager when he was wrongly accused of biting an IRA man's ear off and throwing a petrol bomb at his home 27 years ago.

But despite protesting his innocence, he was singled out for a reprisal attack which left him unable to walk for months.

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Letter to ex-republican Paul Reid from the CRJ

Letter to ex-republican Paul Reid from the CRJ

Letter to ex-republican Paul Reid from the CRJ

Four IRA men abducted Reid - a nephew of famous IRA gunman Billy Reid - in the Moyard area and after bundling him into a car and beating him, they drove him at speed to an alleyway in Ballymurphy.

His arms and legs were bound with tape and nylon rope and he was hung upside down on a wooden fence. The masked men then proceeded to beat him about the legs with iron bars.

"They shoved a sock into my mouth so as I couldn't shout. At the same time, they pulled a hood over my head so tightly I couldn't breathe. I really thought I was going to die there and then.

"I was accused of biting an IRA man's ear off and throwing a petrol bomb at his house. It just wasn't true. Not only did I not do it, it never happened.

"I was hanging upside down on a wooden fence when they hit me. It was like being crucified. And they just kept battering me with iron bars.

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"But all the time I knew the real reason for it was personal revenge," he insisted.

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Paul Reid

Paul Reid

Paul Reid

"A few years before, I had got the better of an IRA man in a fist fight. As a teenager, I could handle myself and he held a grudge against me. The attack was his payback.

"It was brutal. My legs blew up like balloons and they still kept battering me with the iron bars. But eventually they ran off leaving me hanging on the fence.

"My mother and father arrived soon afterwards and when my mother saw me, she collapsed.

"I was in absolute agony and I begged local people to cut me down and get me help. And when they did and my legs hit the ground, my pain level shot through the roof.

"But I was also really embarrassed because I had been beaten by the IRA. It was only natural that some people thought I must have deserved it," he explained.

"My uncle Billy had given his life for the IRA and I had been brought up to respect the republican movement, but they left me bruised and battered for something I didn't do," he insisted.

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Paul Reid

Paul Reid

Paul Reid

Reid was rushed to the Fracture Clinic in the Royal Victoria Hospital on the Falls Road where he underwent emergency surgery.

Struggling to recover from his ordeal as well as coping with the mental trauma of the attack, he contemplated suicide.

However, his brother Billy spotted the danger signs and immediately drove Paul to Omeath in Co Louth, where he gradually recovered.

Paul says he chose to follow Christ after undergoing a religious experience in the bedroom of his west Belfast home.

He maintains he has learned healing comes through forgiveness.

And in time he opted to visit the home of the IRA man who organised the attack.

"I told him I forgave him for the attack on me and he thanked me," said Paul.

But Paul was still determined to clear his name publicly.

Paul's mother visited Sinn Féin's Connolly House HQ where she met Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) director Jim McCarthy.

She asked Mr McCarthy to help her find answers and a subsequent inquiry found her son was entirely innocent of the alleged 'crimes' levelled against him.

And through the CRJ organisation, Paul eventually received a written message stating the IRA acknowledged some of its members had carried out the attack. Such an apology from the IRA is almost unprecedented.

The letter states that a senior IRA man - now dead - spoke to the CRJ and, "with the full authority of the IRA", admitted the attack was "wrong and should never have happened".

A former republican socialist activist, Paul's uncle Billy is considered republican royalty after he became the first Provisional IRA volunteer to kill a serving British soldier at the beginning of the Troubles.

Gunner Robert Curtis (20) - a soldier in the Royal Artillery - was shot by Reid during a fierce gun battle in the New Lodge area of Belfast on February 6 1971.

But just three months later, 32-year-old Reid - a staff officer in the IRA and a father of four - was himself shot dead.

He died in a failed ambush on Scottish soldiers as they ate ice cream in the back of a military vehicle in Academy Street, near St Anne's Cathedral.

Reid and his IRA companions had opened up on the unsuspecting squaddies, hitting two of them. The IRA men then took to their heels.

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Paul Reid

Paul Reid

Paul Reid

But with armed British soldiers racing towards him, Billy Reid tried to fire once more, but his gun jammed and he was forced to flee on foot.

But seconds later Reid was brought to the ground when a British bullet ripped into his back.

A republican anthem, 'The Ballad of Billy Reid' was written shortly afterwards. It was recorded by the Wolfe Tones and it is still popular in republican circles today. A republican flute band was named in Billy Reid's honour.

Paul Reid maintains that given his family background, it was inevitable he'd want to join a paramilitary 'army'.

"At one time I thought the IRA was great. I looked up to them," he said.

But he added: "Now I'm in Christ's army and I firmly believe forgiveness leads to healing and I want everyone to know that."

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