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26 March 1998 Edition

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Truth Commission needed in England

By Mary Nelis

The BBC's Here and Now programme last week was devoted to Colin Parry, whose son Tim was killed in the Warrington bomb. Mr Parry is considering giving up his full time job as a personnel manager in order to set up a peace centre in Warrington. Such a centre, he claimed, would be modelled on peace camps he has organised in the Six Counties ``where young people can speak freely with friends and enemies in an atmosphere free from coercion''.

The inspiration for the peace centre was a Catholic teenager, a recipient of the Tim Parry scholarship, who attended one of Mr Parry's peace camps.

This young man supported the concept that violence is legitimate in pursuit of political goals but, according to Mr Parry, after a week at the peace camp, he renounced this position, in quite a dramatic way. If a peace camp can achieve such a turnaround in the north of Ireland, just think what a peace camp could do in England.

The establishment of such a place deserves consideration if it would do nothing more than reclaim or rescue the word `peace' from the political language of the current conflict.

But an English peace centre could do much more.

Young would-be recruits for the British Army could be influenced in such a place by the Catholic teenager, may help concentrate the minds of youngsters in English job centres who are coerced through lack of work into ``joining the professionals''. They may learn in a peace centre that the British Army has always pursued violence in Ireland as part of their government's political interest there. They may learn that children other than Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry have died tragically in the current phase of Britain's assumed role as peacekeepers in a conflict which they instigated and continue to maintain.

They may hear of those other children, not talked about at peace camps or rallies, those children who died horrific deaths, their skulls and faces smashed to pieces by plastic bullets fired by British soldiers.

Some may wonder, as we do, why the names of Stephen McConomy and Carole Ann Kelly are not as familiar as Tim Parry or Jonathan Ball. Why there are no choirs or scholarships or peace marches to commemerate their deaths.

They may wonder why such a high value is placed on the lives of some children, while others have no value at all. But such a centre could have the potential to be the first true standard bearer for the truth for those genuine people. They may wonder why the highly organised and in some cases, professional peace groups, so eager to rush on to the streets with doves and crosses when the IRA kill someone, all but dissappeared during the recent almost daily assassinations of nationalists. They may also wonder why the 17,500 soldiers as well 13,000 members of the RUC, armed with the most sophisticated weaponry and technology in the world, were unable to prevent such murders.

A centre for peace in England could have the potential to address those questions and also to focus on the issues that peace movements of the last 30 years have either ignored or were prevented from addressing; issues such as collusion of British security forces with loyalist paramilitires and the arming of such groups.

Maybe such a centre would give the families of those killed by British forces the opportunity to ask questions about the cover-up of the killers and the character assassination of their loved ones by a hostile media, briefed by British PR officers.

The greatest tribute that can be paid to all those who have died in this conflict, including the children of Warrington, is for Colin Parry to acknowledge in the words of the great British writer William Makepeace Thackeray, ``There is no crime ever invented by eastern or western barbarians, no tyranny of Nero but can be matched in the history of the English in Ireland''.

An acknowledgement like this could form the basis for a Truth Commission in England.

The Warrington Peace Centre could launch that commission to address the sentiments contained in Thackeray's comments.

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