The comments made by Sir John Major at the 30th anniversary memorial service held in Warrington on 20 March 2023.
I feel honoured to be with you in Warrington this morning: commemorating that dark and desperate day exactly 30 years ago …. almost to the minute.
It was a day which affected so many – but none more so than the families and friends of Tim Parry and Johnathan Ball.
I have never forgotten the moment I received the call from No10. I was in my garden in Huntingdon that weekend: a sunny, early Spring day, when children were in shopping centres up and down the country buying cards and flowers for Mothering Sunday.
When Tim and Johnathan’s mothers waved their sons off on the morning of 20 March, 1993, they couldn’t possibly have known that what they were seeing was the last wave they would receive in return.
What they suffered is beyond the nightmare of any parent.
The two bombs here in Warrington brought me the closest I ever came to giving up on the Peace Process.
I felt that if the IRA could continue to plant random bombs, in random towns, randomly killing children and other innocent men and women, whilst we were trying to find a way through to peace, there really was no hope.
But I couldn’t give up. I feared that – if we did – there would be even more bombs, even more children, and even more grieving families.
And there is always hope. As time has proved.
But there is more.
There is also healing, forgiveness, and turning something so unimaginably painful into something so enduringly positive.
As Colin and Wendy Parry did at the Peace Centre here in Warrington.
Established in memory of Tim and Johnathan, they created a meeting place and education centre, bringing together people from different religions to gain a better understanding of each other’s beliefs and cultures.
Many friendships – from historically opposing factions – have been forged and kept.
And hope got a helping hand.
The Peace Centre has also provided support and professional counselling to all victims of terrorism here in the UK – most recently to the families affected by the Manchester Arena bombing.
Since 1993, Colin and Wendy have devoted themselves to this cause. Selfless and tireless in their determination to honour Tim’s memory, by helping others who have fallen victim to the same senseless violence that ended their own son’s life in this very place – 30 years ago today.
I cannot think of a greater legacy any parent could gift their child.
Shortly, we will be hearing memories of Tim and Johnathan, from those who knew them best. Tim’s nephew, Arthur, will read a poem. And the choir from Tim’s former school will sing one last song: “Something Inside so Strong”.
I would like to end by touching on one particular line from that: “My light will shine so brightly it will blind you – because there’s something inside so strong”.
Let us think about that for a moment.
There is a light too bright to be extinguished.
And that is hope.
Let us hope that light will shine down on us all.
May it provide:
- the strength we need to sustain us in times of trauma and grief;
- the forgiveness we must find within ourselves to heal;
- the tolerance to understand views that are different from our own;
- and the resolve to explore every conceivable avenue – to turn what might seem the impossible, into the possible.
It can be done. It has been done. It will be done again.
With hope – there is always a way …..
And, with that in-extinguishable beacon lighting our path, peace and reconciliation can and will be found.