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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, October 27, 2002
    A remarkable bid for reconciliation
    Preparing for Ireland today I have been deeply moved by watching a video Roy Gregory lent to me, of a BBC Everyman programme which spent a year with Jo Tufnell and Patrick Magee.

    Jo Tufnell is the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry, one of the four people killed in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England in October 1984 during the Conservative Party Conference.Ê The bomb was planted to kill and injure as many members of government as possible. She felt that she began a journey that day, of trying to understand why this had happened.

    One of the bombers, Patrick Magee, was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment.Ê He was released in 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.Ê Jo Tufnell began communicating with him, and has met with him six times. Their story is an education in what 'finding peace' really means in our violent world.

    At the first meeting Magee apologised to her, but insisted that her father was a legitimate target.Ê She says that she understands what drove him to do it, but refuses to talk of forgiveness. "There's a lot of pressure on victims to forgive," she said.Ê "I think that's wrong.Ê Forgiveness sounds like something you do, and then it's done.Ê But for me it's a journey.Ê I can only really forgive myself."

    At their first meeting in Dublin in November 2000 Magee said, "I want to hear everything you have to say.Ê I want to hear your anger. And I want to share what I've been through and why I did it." He expressed his keen sense of injustice, that in 1984 violence was the only way he could see to make his political enemies listen - to "take the war to England".

    Jo Tufnell reflected, "My sense is that he felt through taking up violence he's lost some of his humanity. Now, with the peace process happening, it was time to redress the past."

    Jo believes her father would approve of her actions. "People don't have to stay with the hurt.Ê One way is to see humanity in people who would be your enemy."

    Jo and Patrick's painstaking journey involved hard listening and straight talking, of each seeking to understand the 'other'. Jo was faced with the sense that in trying to build bridges she may be betraying her family and friends, and others who suffered in that bombing. Patrick saw the human consequences of his political struggle. A subtext to their conversations was Jo passing on what her 7-year-old daughter said about their meetings. " Why are you meeting that bad man?" was her initial reaction, angered that Magee had killed her Grandpa.

    "She's still very angry," Jo said at their second meeting. "She asked me, 'Is he sorry?' I told her, 'Yes, he's very sorry that Grandpa had to die.' She said, 'Oh, does that mean that Grandpa can come back now?'

    "There's some truth in that for me, that 7-year-old wisdom. If we can talk now, and if I can understand what drove you to violence, and if I can hear it... why did my Dad have to die..."

    Their remarkable odyssey continued to a point where each confessed to having found personal growth and some form of healing through their journey. Magee said he was a pacifist at 15, only taking up the armed struggle when he saw that the political process gave no possibility for his voice to be heard. Looking back he told Jo that "Taking up violence meant that there was a cost ... it was at the expense of my humanity. Meeting you gave a chance for me to regain some of that humanity."

    And for her part, Jo said: "I don't see Pat as a bad man. I see Brighton as a result of many factors which are very complex. I suppose there's an idea that someone who's killed my father must be a certain way ... the truth is very different. We make people into perpetrators. And we all can be when the desperation gets too much."