CHARLES GRAHAM - A father finding peace

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AS a minute’s silence was held in Warrington town centre yesterday on the 20th anniversary of its hideous bomb outrage, one word came to mind.

Reconciliation.

It is a word that means a great deal to the families of the three people who died as a result of that IRA atrocity and no doubt to many more besides who fell victim to The Troubles.

Such was the public backlash after the deaths of young Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball (33-year-old Bronwen Vickers, badly wounded in the blast, died a year later) along with the injuries to 53 other shoppers that it proved the beginning of the end for the mainstream Provisionals’ campaign of violence.

I hope this gives the victims’ loved ones some sense that the losses were not completely futile.

How I would have reacted long-term if one of my children had been killed in an act of terrorism, I cannot say.

Would I have been consumed by bitter hatred for the rest of my life, thirsting only for revenge? It is an emotional state in which many distraught relatives have found themselves in during conflicts across the world since time began. It is perfectly understandable but also deeply corrosive and serves to perpetuate the very conflict which led to the loss in the first place.

My admiration is unbounded for the parents of former Wigan schoolboy Tim though. Somehow Colin and Wendy Parry managed to channel their terrible grief into a quest for peace rather than retribution and today they can stand proud at being the vanguard of helping to quell the Troubles.

To this day I find it astonishing that Colin Parry now counts Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness as a close acquaintance. Indeed the bereaved dad admits that some friends and relatives are still opposed to the relationship and say that “Tim would be turning in his grave.”

But Colin has had the courage and vision to embrace the bigger picture.

Yet it needed those backing the IRA themselves to lay down arms and look for a political solution for Colin’s hopes and work to succeed too. And of Mr McGuinness he says: “He’s a very different man from the person paraded in the press as the devil. He’s very civil and has abandoned armed struggle.”

Colin reminded us that peacemakers speak to their enemies. The Parrys talk regularly to Mr McGuinness and “get along very well.”

And if the Parrys can do it, so can all those other people in the world who hold the endlessly pointless belief that to end conflict and hatred you must always have the final violent word.

On the anniversary of that horrific day in Warrington, Colin’s words are a timely reminder that there are other solutions to conflict if all parties are prepared to work at it.