Richard Moore was just 10 when he was injured by a rubber bullet as attempts were made to break up a crowd outside Rosemount RUC Station in Derry in 1972 after a solider came under attack.
Mr Moore, who was passing by the police station at the time, has long forgiven retired Captain Charles Inness, of Whitsome in the Scottish Borders, who fired the shot.
The pair have since forged an unlikely friendship after meeting for the first time in 2006 and have travelled far and wide to spread their message of peace and reconciliation, even meeting the Dalai Lama after being invited to his home in Dharamsala and talk to more than 2,500 people.
But despite the bond they shared, the soldier had never apologised for what happened that day in Derry - until now.
Mr Moore, 59, said: “They say ‘sorry’ is the hardest word and for years Charles had his own logic for not doing so - but he has now.
“Charles was of the opinion that when you say ‘sorry’, it means that you didn’t mean to fire the bullet. He’d say, ‘I meant to fire the bullet, but I never meant to cause the damage’.
He always said if he’d known what was going to happen to me, he wouldn’t have fired it.
“To me that is semantics, but the more I talked with Charles and the more we got to know each other, I always felt that he was sorry. He just couldn’t bring himself to say it.
“When it came it was really moving. I didn’t need it, I didn’t ask for it, but when it came it was really, really nice. It really was.”
Mr Moore has never dwelled on losing his sight. The married married dad-of-two went on to owntwo pubs, graduated from university, ran the New York marathon, and formed his
own charity, Children In Crossfire, which has raised over £30million to help millions of children worldwide since 1996.
His charity was recently awarded a £250,000 UK Government grant through the Department For International Development’s ‘UK Aid Direct’ scheme to help provide 100,000 children in the Dodoma region of Tanzania with an education.
Mr Inness, who is now 78, said it was partly his age that led him to apologise.
He said: “For a long time, I didn’t know what happened to him after that day but of course I never forgot it. Whenever I had a quiet moment, I would have these great feelings of regret and sadness.”
Mr Inness said he always felt that firing the rubber bullet was justified given the security situation at the police station, where a group of people were trying to “skewer” a solider through the slit of a look-out tower with a scaffolding pole.
But while he had rationalised his actions, the need to apologise grew.
He said: “One night I just said to him. Richard ‘of course I am sorry’. I am sorry that the bloody Troubles in Ireland ever occurred. I am sorry that so many people died on both sides.
“It was a ghastly situation where I ended up blinding Richard, but many years later the whole thing changed completely when we met. Our friendship and what we have done, well its the most wonderful thing to come out of the most tragic event.”
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