Wednesday, October 14, 2009

 

Jo Berry and Patrick McGhee Impress with their Journey of Reconciliation


I sometimes wake up and listen to the World Service and have just had to profound experience of listening to Jo Berry and Patrick McGhee discussing at length their friendship. And a strange friendship it is. She is the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry who was one of the five people killed by the Brighton bomb and he is the man who placed the bomb which killed her father. They have met some 60 times since the event and have done many interviews like the one I heard. Yet, for me, it was deeply moving. She, a member of the British ruling elite and he a Northern Ireland Catholic community, they have tried valiantly to understand one another.

This despite, I suspect, the powerful opposition of the communities from which they originate. The likes of Norman Tebbitt, whose wife was crippled and who was personally injured has shown nothing but defiant contempt for such terrorists. How would I, or how would you react? I'd like to think it would be like Jo Berry as hers is the kind of bravery required if communities at war are to learn to live with one another, not just in Ulster but in the Middle East and other places where sectarian hatred and murderous violence drive the agenda. But I suspect I'd seek the all too understandable refuge of hatred and desire for revenge.

The two make a strange couple: she seeking to extraxct something good from her personal tragedy and he overcome with remorse and sadness for what he did. He admits to feeling 'relief' when the bomb went off 'successfully'. I suspect, like other bombers, he also felt delight but that would have been a bit too honest. Jo explained she did not forgive him but said she did 'understand' him, how someone from his background and upbringing could be drawn into the IRA and its struggle. For his part he admitted he was sorry for what he had done and how he too wished to move on from the savage feelings which had created the tragic impasse in his home province.

It was a strictly limited reconciliation but both people were so sincere and humbly desirous of escape from the prison of negative passions, I was moved by their journey towrds mutual understanding. And if it wasn't a total healing of wounds who could wonder? He had killed her much loved father. Yet without such extraordinary behaviour and emotional bravery, I cannot see how either side in the conflict- still bubbling on under ther apparent surface calm in Northern Ireland- will ever transcend its history and achieve the liberation required to live properly again.

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