Speech by Mary McAleese at the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, Warrington, (Thursday 5 June 2008)
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Speech by Mary McAleese, then Irish President, at the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, Warrington, (Thursday 5 June 2008)
"Lord Lieutenant, High Sheriff, Mayor Welborn [Warrington], Mayor Morris [Salford], Colin and Wendy, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Martin and I are very grateful to have the opportunity to be here with you today in this special place. We are here not only to visit this wonderful Centre you have built, but also to pay tribute to the work and spirit of Colin and Wendy Parry, who, in the face of the most unimaginable personal loss, chose to refashion their grief into a formidable force for reconciliation and healing.
When shortly after midday on that fateful Saturday, fifteen years ago, two bombs tore through the heart of Warrington, they shattered many, many lives, and extinguished those of the two young boys commemorated here. Two routes were open to the families in their despair and sorrow - the route of anger and hatred and vengeance, or the courageous one depicted by Colin in his remarkable words at Tim's funeral:
"If my son becomes a symbol of peace and gives everyone a new sense of hope after such a tragedy, then that will be Tim's unique achievement".
The Parrys have fashioned that new sense of hope. They championed it and advocated it against, at times, the most awesomely depressing and discouraging of contexts both here and in Ireland. Today I come from an Ireland that is at peace, an Ireland where the old enmities between Unionist and Nationalist, between North and South are melting rapidly and a new culture of good neighbourliness is growing at a reassuringly rapid rate.
The relationship between Ireland and Great Britain has never been better than it is today, characterised as it is by a strong partnership that has driven the Peace Process which is so close to the Parrys' hearts. The Irish poet Yeats once wrote that "peace comes dropping slow". The peace we now enjoy has been built at such an awful cost but built it has been, thanks to those who, despite terrible suffering, have always believed in the capacity of the human person to change, to open up to the once-despised otherness of others, to make friends of strangers, to make good neighbours of old enemies.
George Eliot once noted that,
"the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts, and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs."
I am honoured to pay tribute today to the quiet and courageous efforts of that 'hidden' family of individuals and groups, typified by the Foundation for Peace, whose quiet and consistent efforts, grounded in a spirit of reconciliation and convinced of the potential for goodness in our shared humanity, opened the locks of progress and softened once hardened hearts.
It is said that forgiveness does not change the past, but it enlarges the future. The 20,000 young people who have participated in your programmes, exchanges and projects are the building blocks of that enlarged future. Generations of lives have been diminished by contempt, distrust and fear. The toxic spores have been carried in human hearts and attitudes from one decade to the next and we have all reaped a bitter, bitter harvest.
We hope that the worst of that harvest has now been gathered and that the land now waiting to be reseeded will be seeded with the kind of attitudes and values that build us up humanly, that conduce to justice, to compassion, to an unshakeable commitment to peace. That is the only monument worthy of those who died or were injured or who live with grievous absence and loss day in and day out.
In this tenth anniversary year of the Good Friday Agreement we can see its remarkable potential reveal itself in the building of a new culture of consensus. You had a hand in that, a strong guiding hand. You were the hands and heart of love's work, the work of two innocent and lovely children whose physical absence has become a resounding and powerful spiritual and moral presence. You have quite simply helped to work a miracle - one that will allow generations of children to grow up in friendship and in mutual respect and above all in peace.
I would like to express my gratitude - all our gratitude - to those of you here who generously support and encourage Colin and Wendy, and the staff and volunteers of the Centre, in the valuable work that they do. You can take pride in the knowledge that your work, your message - Tim's and Johnathan's legacy - resonate far beyond this part of Britain, and that our world is learning to be a better place because of what you do here.
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