News Article: “Former Terrorist Finds The Prince of Peace”

By David Kithcart, The 700 Club |

Kenny McClinton was on the settee in his home, contemplating going to bed when someone with a 12-gauge shotgun came to his window. They sneaked into the garden, put the shotgun against the window and pulled the trigger directly at Kenny’s head.

Two days after Christmas 1997, an assassin was sent on a mission. His objective: to kill Kenny McClinton. During Kenny’s Loyalist terrorist days when he fought against the Irish Republican Army (IRA), an attack like this would have been expected as a part of everyday life; a life that was filled with violence.

The Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) is known as one of the most feared terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere. They are organized, disciplined and have, in many cases, fought the IRA to a standstill. Kenny was a military commander with the UFF before he was sent to prison.

“I’m ashamed to say I was responsible for some of the most horrendous atrocities of that period. I didn’t care whether I slaughtered men, women or children. I thought I was doing what was right. I’m utterly ashamed to say that in the next two-year period I personally took guns and shot two men dead.”

Kenny was arrested for the two murders and sentenced to two life terms in prison, not to serve less than 20 years. He was sent to the H block of Maze Prison reserved specifically for terrorists, where he once took on 15 prison guards all at the same time.

“I was nearly immediately made commanding officer of the paramilitary prisoners inside the prison. They had begun to call me ‘that maniac, McClinton.'”

He was thrown into solitary confinement. His only cellmate was an old King James Bible. In it, Kenny found someone who offered him something he needed.

“I found a Savior who was willing to reach forth and touch lepers such as I, socially unacceptable, unclean indeed, a Savior, Jesus Christ, who had love in His heart even for murderers like me, and something began to melt within my hardened heart.

“I reached a stage that on the 12th of August, 1979, I could go no further. I fell to my knees on that cell floor and cried out to God. I cried out for forgiveness and repentance and faith given of God. I said, ‘Lord, please come into my heart. Please forgive me for my black, murderous ends. Please, Lord, I beg of you.’ And you know what? He did. Praise God, He did. I got up off that cell floor a new creature in Christ.”

Kenny knew that he had to confess his newfound faith to his fellow inmates.

“I called the men to their cell doors that night. I said, ‘I have something to tell you, men. I have taken the most serious step of my life. I have renounced violence. I have given my life to the Lord Jesus, and He has come into my heart and forgiven me my sins. For the rest of my life I want to serve Him to the best of my ability. From here on tonight, I cease to be the commanding officer of the UFF, the Ulster Freedom Fighters, but I wish only to be a mere volunteer in the army of the living Lord Jesus. I just wanted you men to know that.’

“Now there was complete shock that night in the H block. Silence. Suddenly my cell became a meetinghouse for other prisoners three times a week. It ended up that 24 notorious Loyalist prisoners, within an 18-month period, came to know Jesus as their Lord on my cell floor. Many prison officers were found kneeling on my floor, crying tears, but this time it wasn’t in pain because ‘The Maniac’ had caught them in his lair. It was because I was on my knees beside them, leading them to the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Kenny served a total of 16 years in prison. When he got out, he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and studied the Bible. Kenny found that his life’s experiences were drawing him back into associating with known terrorists. This time it was for a different purpose.

“Being an ex-prisoner myself and now born again by the power of the Lord, I have a unique ministry to prisoners and to their families. At the time, there was a prison riot with the LVF faction, the Loyalist Volunteer Force. I got permission from the secretary of state to visit the LIP, Billy Wright, who was the founder-leader of that group. I spoke with him for three hours. Because of the reasoning power the Lord gave me with Billy Wright, (whom I had led to the Lord in 1983 and who had then backslid), we were able to get the whole situation calmed down and a death threat from the LVF on prison officers was immediately lifted. Lives were saved, tensions were eased, and the prison tension and riot was solved.”

Kenny claims that his success in negotiating an end to the riot made him the target of another Loyalist terrorist splinter group.

“Some people in the communist leadership of the UVF didn’t like that. So an assassin came down to my window. My wife and I had just been at a Bible class where I had taught theology for two hours. I had been teaching that night on the concept of deliver us from evil from the Lord’s Prayer. It was very much at the fore of my mind that the Lord was the only One that could deliver from evil. My wife, who was heavily pregnant with our little baby girl, Abigail, went up to bed because she was tired. I was going to follow her, when suddenly there was a blast in through the window, and the shotgun blast came through reinforced glass, in through the settee where Wendy had been sitting and into the wall. It was only by the grace of God that I survived and I was left with lead on my collar. If Wendy had been sitting there, she would now have been dead; our little baby girl, Abigail, would not have survived such a shotgun blast. It was 12-gauge.”

Kenny continues to negotiate in what can sometimes be a political minefield. One casualty was Kenny’s former protégé, Billy Wright. Known in the media as “King Rat,” Wright was killed in prison under suspicious circumstances.

“Twenty thousand people attended this man’s funeral, and that 20,000 people walked all the way from his home to the graveyard, and there I was given the God-given opportunity to preach the Gospel. I had led Billy Wright to the Lord in 1983, but Billy had allowed his loyalties, divided loyalties, between his love for his country and his love for his Savior to come between him and Christ, and he had taken up again the fight against the IRA. But for every conversation I had had with Billy Wright over a number of years since that, the one thing that encouraged me was that Billy Wright never had any peace; he would forthrightly tell anyone that would listen that he had walked away from the greatest friend and the most sincere love that he had ever known in Christ Jesus, and missed the close fellowship that he had had with his Savior.”

It’s not difficult for Kenny to remember the same overwhelming conviction he had once held for his own beliefs, beliefs for which he had been willing to murder.

“I was dedicated to what I believed, but the difficulty with being sincere and sincerely committed is that one can be sincerely wrong, and I was sincerely wrong, and there was only the Lord Jesus Christ that could change me from being such a dedicated terrorist.”

Kenny has been marginally involved in the Northern Ireland peace accords. He was able to convince the LVF to show good faith in the peace process by being the first terrorist organization to voluntarily decommission some of their weapons.

“As the angle grinders bit into the submachine guns, it was as if the Sword of the Spirit was biting into terrorism here in Ulster, that hearts were being encouraged with new hope, that we did not need to slay and slaughter each other with weapons to get our points of view across, that honest reason and debate and the will of the people could be fulfilled.

“Yes, it was a wonderful day.”

Kenny is looking forward to many more warm, wonderful days for his country and with his family.

“Having lived at that cruel, fierce and that sub-human side of terrorism myself, and having taken precious life myself, and as a murderer, (and I will be a murderer until the day I die), I now need to put something back into the community that’s positive. If I can bring some people away from taking life and if I can take the instruments of death off the streets, then surely it’s going some way to keeping someone from falling into the same situation that I was in, in 1977, and to stop the heartache and the tears and the misery that my victims’ families went through. So it’s my contribution to peace, because of the inspiration of the Prince of Peace himself, Christ Jesus.”