THE IRA this week offered its "sincere apologies" for causing civilian deaths, including the seven victims of the Aldershot bomb.

The terrorist group said sorry for killing 650 civilians during the Troubles, but stopped short of apologising for the deaths of service personnel.

In 1972 the IRA detonated a car bomb in Pennefathers Road, killing six civilians: Thelma Bosley, Margaret Grant, John Haslar, Joan Lunn, Jill Mansfield and Cherie Munton.

Army padre Gerry Weston also died in the attack on February 22.

In a statement issued on July 16 from Dublin the paramilitaries said: "While it was not our intention to injure or kill non-combatants, the reality is that on this and on a number of other occasions that was the consequence of our actions.

"It is therefore appropriate on the anniversary of this tragic event that we address all of the deaths and injuries of non-combatants caused by us.

"We offer our sincere apologies and condolences to their families."

Aldershot MP Gerald Howarth said the apology would sound "rather hollow" to the families of servicemen who died in the troubles.

"Obviously any move towards a permanent end to feuding in Northern Ireland would be welcome," he said.

"The IRA, through their spokesman Martin McGuiness, said that we should take that apology at face value.

"That will come very hard for people, whether they be parents or family of soldiers and civilians murdered by the IRA."

He qualified his scepticism with the recent news that the provisionals were trying to buy new weapons in South America.

"I see this as just another cynical move by the IRA.

"The reason is that only a few months ago they were caught negotiating for new weapons in Colombia.

"How do you take seriously the protestations of people who do that?"

Mr Howarth was also disappointed that the IRA fell short of apologising to the relatives of soldiers, many of whom were based in Aldershot, who were killed in the Troubles.

He said: "These young men (soldiers) were not raised against other men in uniforms, openly and squarely facing them in battle.

"They were against people hanging in the shadows, people who are just irredeemably evil.

"But if the IRA desist from buying weapons and say that this is all behind us (the violence), I dare say that one could say it is over. But it all seems so one-sided."

And Rushmoor councillor David Clifford, whose mother Anne was washing up at her home just a few hundred yards away when the Aldershot bomb went off, said the test of whether the IRA statement was sincere was to see whether they ever again kill civilians through their actions.

Cllr Clifford added: "It's very difficult. We hope it's sincere, I think everyone does.

"I think a sincere apology means that you never do it again.

"The IRA in the past have always given very cynical apologies."