The Brighton bomber has visited the UK's House of Commons for the first time to speak about “reconciliation”.
Patrick Magee spoke last night alongside Jo Berry, the daughter of MP Sir Anthony Berry, who was killed in the attack.
He said of joining the IRA: “On my conscience I look back to those days and I don’t think I would have made another choice.”
Magee was speaking at a meeting organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues and reconciliation scheme The Forgiveness Project.
He said he had no other choice than to join the IRA as a young man and saw it as defending the area in which he lived.
The 58-year-old said: “If I could have put myself back all those years ago and there were other options available, I would have jumped at them because nobody wants to carry that burden.
“When you close off options for people to pursue their aims openly through politics or agitation, violence can come on to the agenda. I was not a violent person .... yet I am responsible for violence.”
Magee was sentenced to eight life sentences in 1986 for atrocity, but freed in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.
When challenged about whether he was repentant, he said: “I don’t understand repentance. I think it has a religious meaning. But I can regret.
“Meeting Jo and becoming involved with the Forgiveness Project was never about wanting forgiveness, it was always about trying to explain, trying to understand the hurt you have caused.”
The bombing of the Grand Hotel during the Conservative Party conference in 1984 killed five people and injured 34.
His appearance sparked an angry reaction from Lord Tebbit, whose wife Margaret was paralysed in the attack.
The former Cabinet minister told the Daily Mail: “I don’t believe he is an agent of reconciliation. He has expressed no remorse.
“Magee is triumphalist about what he did. He didn’t kill the Prime Minister but he came close and he is proud of it.”
Marina Cantacuzino from the Forgiveness Project wrote to Lord Tebbit before yesterday’s meeting to explain why it was taking place.
She said he told her: “Your project excuses, rewards and encourages murder,” which she denied.
Ms Berry, who first met her father’s killer nine years ago, opened the meeting by saying: “Coming back here is very emotional. I feel I’ve come back home. This was where I came with my beloved dad when I was little.”
When Sir Anthony was killed, she felt “the pain of war” but decided to focus on efforts for peace.
She said: “I thought to myself I would like something positive to come out of this, I would like to find a way to contribute to peace. That gave me a sense that somehow I would be OK.”
The meeting came a day after the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Conservative Party conference.
Chaired by Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, it was billed as an “examination of the challenges of reconciliation after violence”.
Magee told the meeting he was “sorry” for having killed Sir Anthony, and regretted the loss of life and injuries caused by the Brighton bomb.
He also said: “I come here not as some act of pride, I come here in as much humility as I can muster.”