A peace campaigner whose 12-year-old son was killed by an IRA bomb 24 years ago has offered to help families bereaved in the Manchester bomb attack.
Colin Parry’s son Tim was one of two children killed in 1993 when the IRA bombed the nearby town of Warrington.
Mr Parry helped to set up a peace centre in memory of both boys.
He said he will be offering its support services to Manchester families going through “the most unimaginable horror any parent can ever countenance”.
The explosion in Manchester Arena, at a pop concert by the US singer Ariana Grande, caused the deaths of 22 people, several of them children and young people.
“To be told your child has died in a bombing attack, when they’ve gone out to what was meant to be a happy, fun event – watching a pop singer at a concert – it almost beggars belief,” Mr Parry said.
“I know the parents are going to be utterly bewildered and in the deepest, deepest trough they’ll ever be in their lives.”
‘Time stands still’
Tim Parry was killed alongside toddler Johnathan Ball when the IRA detonated bombs near a busy shopping centre on the day before Mother’s Day in 1993.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback programme, Mr Parry said the Manchester victims would need support for many years to come.
“When the news moves on, and tragically it does, these parents will very much feel isolated and alone.”
“There will be many people in Northern Ireland who would recognise this, who went through the same kinds of tragedy, where life has to move on.
“And it moves on rather quickly for families not affected, whereas, for the families affected, it’s like time stands still.”
Mr Parry said the loss of a child can put enormous strain on parents and can lead to relationships breaking down.
“The damage extends like a big spillage outwards – and families have to be able to guard against that and work together as best they can.”
Speaking from personal experience, Mr Parry said that although relatives and close friends can provide welcome support in the immediate aftermath of a death, eventually they will have to get back to their normal lives.
He added: “These families who have lost children will never again have a normal life.”
The campaigner helped to open Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre in March 2000, on the seventh anniversary of the boys’ deaths.
When asked what advice he would give the Manchester victims, Mr Parry said he would offer to share his own family’s experience of dealing with grief.
“If they wanted to hear it, I would probably tell them how our life unfolded after we lost Tim because I think, in many ways, what they will go through will mirror what we went through and indeed, what so many families have gone through when they’ve lost a child – especially one at the hands of a terrorist attack.
“I think the very fact that I could say to them, as my wife could – ‘we have survived, our family has gone on’.
“In time, we did find way of coping, despite the awful dark days at the beginning.”
However, Mr Parry acknowledged that bereaved families “may not listen or agree when the grief is at its highest”.
He described how at the time of Tim’s death, his own family had been comforted and inspired by another father who had been bereaved by a bomb.
‘Beacon for sense’
Mr Parry paid tribute to Gordon Wilson, who lost his daughter when the IRA bombed a Remembrance Sunday service in Enniskillen in 1987.
“He said, in our home, similar words to my wife and I when he visited Warrington, not long after the bombing.
“We found his words enormously helpful because he was a man who we greatly admired anyway.
“He stood like a beacon for sense and sensibility, as a great man.”
Mr Wilson rose to prominence as a peacemaker when he said he forgave those who murdered his daughter.
Mr Parry has repeatedly said he will never forgive the IRA for murdering his son, but he did meet leading members of Sinn Féin during his efforts to promote peace.
This included inviting the late Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin – who was once an IRA commander – to deliver a peace lecture marking the 20th anniversary of the atrocity.