We cannot forgive the IRA for killing our son, says Warrington bomb father Colin Parry at talk event with Martin McGuinness
Colin Parry: Out of a terribly dark deed has come something rather good
A man who lost his son in an IRA blast has said he does not forgive the bombers.
Colin Parry spoke those words in west Belfast last night as he sat alongside former IRA commander, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
Mr Parry's 12-year-old son Tim died from his injuries after being caught up in a double-bombing in Warrington town centre in 1993. Three-year-old Johnathan Ball was also killed in the attack, which left 56 people injured.
Since then former HR worker Mr Parry has set up a peace centre along with his wife Wendy and has met Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams as well as Mr McGuinness several times.
He spoke of how upsetting he has found being criticised for engaging with republicans, particularly how he was called an "IRA apologist" on Twitter.
Mr McGuinness said he was shocked by the Warrington bombs which he described as a "terrible event", acknowledging that they had been carried out by what he termed as "my brand of republicanism".
He said on the day of the bomb he had been preparing to take part in back channel conversations with members of MI6, and had expected they would not proceed because of the bombs.
However, the talks which had been suggested in these discussions never happened, and Mr McGuinness said Sinn Fein then turned its sole attentions to the Hume/Adams initiative.
Mr McGuinness had met Mr Parry before in Warrington and spoke of how warmly he had been received there.
"I admire tremendously Colin and Wendy Parry – I think what they went through was absolutely horrendous, and the brand of republicanism that I represent was responsible for that," he said.
"Their hearts were broken by us."
In the talk which was chaired by Claire Hackett from the organisation Pieces of the Past as part of Feile an Phobail, the West Belfast festival, a 150-strong audience had the chance to ask questions.
One of the first comments made at the event, at St Mary's University College, was from a former republican prisoner who did not give his name.
He recalled how on the day of the bomb he was being held in Crumlin Road Prison for what he termed "political offences".
The man said prison officers came into his cell and showed him a picture of Tim Parry and shouted at him.
He said it was incredible to hear Mr Parry speak, describing him as "remarkable".
Mr Parry and Mr McGuinness were asked about their views on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Mr McGuinness hinted that he did not forgive soldiers who had shot dead a close friend, but said maybe one day he will have found language to express that, adding that he does not expect others to forgive the IRA.
"I don't expect anyone hurt by the IRA to forgive the IRA," he said.
"I think that's unreasonable.
"At some stage in the future all of us might find the words."
Mr Parry responded simply by saying that neither he nor his wife forgive, but said it has not stopped them engaging in reconciliation work.
"We don't forgive the IRA for killing our son but that has not stopped us," he said.
"He is our driving force, that's why his name, and Johnathan Ball's name, is in the centre's title, that's why their images are on our headed paper. Those little symbols are important.
"I don't forgive, nor will I, and nor will my wife."
Mr Parry also commented that he had formed much closer links with republicans and nationalists than he had with unionists, pointing out he had never met Ian Paisley.
"I am delighted to have this chance to speak with Martin again and represent our charity and say that, out of a terribly dark deed has come something rather good," he added.
The West Belfast Festival has been running since 1988 and has in the past brought together unlikely groups of people for discussions. Some of those who have appeared at it in the past include former loyalist leader Billy McQuiston, ex PUP leader Dawn Purvis, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, republican strategist Danny Morrison, DUP MPs Jeffrey Donaldson and Ian Paisley jnr
Key quotes from the night
"I am always delighted to share a platform with people like Martin, I make no secret about it – we get along very well personally.
"It's sometimes strange for people who don't know Martin, who say to me how can that be, given our different pasts?
"If you take people as you find them, Martin has always been extremely courteous to me and Wendy."
Peace activist Colin Parry
"These are two very, very special people and I think that all of us who are determined to, even against the backdrop of all the setbacks, move the peace process forward – the more people like Colin and Wendy who are prepared to put their head above the parapet, who are prepared to do that, then as those people come forward then the stronger the demand will be from every section of our community that we have to be reconciled as a people – not just the Catholics and Protestants of the North, but the entire community in the North and people in the South as well, but also with the people in this island with the people in Britain."
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness
"It is the only way we can move on (to engage across the divide), I always try to be positive.
"I got into victims work because of people like Willie Frazer and what I felt he was doing; I wanted to see more positivity, but I understand that he is hurting too."
Paul Gallagher, shot by UFF
"There is an absence of leadership in unionism.
"I meet unionists all the time and they talk about reconciliation but they are not politically represented.
"Those who shout the loudest are, and they are not the majority."
Mark Thompson, Relatives For Justice