One of the names synonymous with the Northern Ireland Peace Process for me has been Colin Parry. Colin's twelve year old son Tim was killed following the detonation of two bombs hidden in dustbins in Warrington, Cheshire by the IRA in March 1993. Among the 50 people injured by the bombs which exploded on a busy shopping street the day before Mother's day was three year old Johnathan Ball, who died from the blast.
Tim survived the impact with multiple injuries but died in hospital five days later. In a moving tribute to Tim, Colin tells how he and his wife Wendy were in Manchester for the day but heard of the bombing from a neighbour. They quickly moved to ensure their three children were okay, but with no news of Tim headed to the hospital:
"We were told he had sustained very serious head injuries and that it was unlikely that he would live through the night. Nothing can ever prepare you for losing a child. It is unbearable and is something you can never imagine.In the time that followed Colin has become a respected and prominent campaigner for peace. He and his wife campaigned tirelessly for peace in Northern Ireland, the UK and further abroad.
On the Sunday, we went to see Tim. What greeted us was terrifying – his head was completely bandaged, his upper body was pock-marked with shrapnel and tubes were coming from his mouth. Also, there was a distinctive smell, probably of Semtex.
The next five days were a roller coaster. We just had to get through five awful days of waiting. And after Tim died, we had to get through the week before the funeral and then the funeral itself."
They founded the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace (website here) in 1995, which promotes "the understanding, management and non violent resolution of conflict". Since its formation in 1995, it has worked to enhance relationships and promote respect for diversity.
In the year 2000, 7 years after the bombing, the Warrington Peace Centre was opened. This is "a unique centre, providing young children and young adults from Britain, Ireland and beyond with a range of learning programmes on the theme of non violent conflict resolution."
When Parry invited Gerry Adams to a Foundation for Peace event, he said then that yes, the meeting was difficult, but it was
"infinitely easier than holding my son dying. It was infinitely easier than carrying him for the final time in his coffin. It was infinitely easier than saying my final farewell to him with my wife. I can also tell you it is infinitely easier for Gerry and I to talk than to fight."Tony Blair has said of the Parrys: "In respect of Colin and Wendy Parry, they have shown a quite extraordinary spirit of forgiveness and determination to promote reconciliation. They can be very proud of the work that they have done over the years. It is interesting that the spirit they represent has ultimately triumphed over hatred, discord and conflict. Surely that should give us hope for the future."
Colin was at Chain Reaction to talk about his centre and the ongoing campaigning for peace. I was lucky enough to be invited to interview him, as unprepared as I was. Truth be told, I was nervous meeting this man who has dedicated his life to a cause with such a personal impact on his life. I'm inspired by people like Colin and the amazing actions he and his wife have taken to promote peace.
Thanks to Colin for the interview and his time and to David Wilcox for filming.