Boys’ deaths ‘absolutely shameful’, says McGuinness
Colin Parry fends off criticism over decision to invite Sinn Féin leader
The shadows cast by two boys aged 12 and three, killed by the IRA in Warrington 20 years ago, still linger.
Just after 3pm yesterday, cars lined up in a car park off a busy road in Warrington to pick up children leaving St Gregory’s Catholic High School. Children left in groups; some hurriedly, some dawdling; few noticing the small group of police officers outside the Tim Parry/Johnathan Ball Young People’s Centre.
Some were the same age as Tim Parry, who died aged just 12, in an explosion set off by the IRA on a street two miles away in the Cheshire town in March 1993, yards away from Johnathan Ball. In the days, months and years afterwards, the smiling pictures of the boy and the toddler became ingrained in the minds of millions, prompting Not in Our Name marches by thousands in Dublin.
Last night, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness came to the Warrington peace and reconciliation centre, set up because of Northern Ireland’s Troubles but which now mostly works with disaffected inner-city British youths.
Speaking before he addressed 160 guests, Mr McGuinness acknowledged that the Warrington deaths had been “absolutely shameful”, although he quickly linked them to children killed by plastic bullets in Northern Ireland.
“In the natural order of family life it is the child who buries the parent,” he said in his speech, “So I am mindful, as a father and a grandfather, of the unimaginable devastation caused.”
For days, Colin Parry, father of Tim, has fended off criticism of the decision to invite the former IRA leader to give the centre’s fifth peace lecture in its history.
However, the protests were but a fraction of what would have happened a few years ago: “Then it would have been folly. Today, people see that the conflict is over. And time moves on,” Mr Parry told The Irish Times.
Mr Parry and Mr McGuinness have met three times, with Mr Parry probing Mr McGuinness’ prior knowledge about the bombing on the first occasion: “He said he didn’t know anything about it.”
Questioned later, Mr McGuinness said he had heard of the bombing “that Saturday morning” as he prepared for a “back-channel” meeting, along with Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, in Derry with a British representative.
“The British government could have walked away, but they knew, as did we, that the only resolution to the conflict lay in dialogue.”