Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Twenty years after the IRA announced a unilateral cessation, Colin Parry inspires reconciliation

War and peace: Martin McGuinness (right) and Colin Parry at a conference in Warrington in 2013
War and peace: Martin McGuinness (right) and Colin Parry at a conference in Warrington in 2013
Colin Parry, father of IRA victim Tim Parry
Colin Parry, father of IRA victim Tim Parry

The IRA killed Colin Parry's son Tim in Warrington in 1993. Despite his terrible loss, Colin Parry has courageously said: "Seeking personal justice may not always sit well with the search for peace. You may have to set aside your own goals for the greater good."

Such generosity of spirit and humanity is remarkable.

Colin Parry exemplifies that remarkable human quality, synonymous with Nelson Mandela, of reaching out to make friends with past enemies.

Tomorrow night Colin will participate in a West Belfast Feile discussion with Martin McGuinness. They will speak about the challenges of peace-building, reconciliation and healing. It is a significant discussion, especially to think that at this very time 20 years ago, enormous political energy was being secretly channelled towards developing a framework which persuaded the IRA to announce a unilateral ceasefire of its armed struggle.

As a result, the peace process slowly took root and the Good Friday Agreement emerged. The next phase of work for politics and society is to develop an authentic reconciliation process.

By their actions, Colin and Martin have given great inspiration. Leadership is also being shown by other civic and community leaders in challenging sectarianism, segregation, racism and division among our people. Sinn Fein has been saying that having "uncomfortable conversations" with each other is key to reconciliation, and that dealing with the past will require both compromise and challenge.

Reconciliation requires public and inclusive engagement; big gestures; clear words and actions; leadership and vision.

An extremist minority is opposed to the rest of us working together to design a shared future. They can only succeed if the greater majority remain passive and silent.

Twenty years ago risks were taken by some to bring about the embryonic peace process. Now it is time for many to stand up and speak out fearlessly for reconciliation.

That is what the next generation deserves from all sections of political and civic leadership.

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