WARRINGTON fell silent to mark the 20th anniversary of the murder of two boys in an IRA outrage.
Hundreds of people observed a minute’s silence as 20 peace doves were released at a moving civic event on Saturday to commemorate the Warrington bombing on March 20, 1993.
The blast tore through the town’s shopping centre, instantly killing three-year-old Johnathan Ball. Tim Parry, 12, became the second victim when he died of his injuries five days later.
A further 56 people were injured by the two bombs placed in litter bins in Bridge Street which exploded shortly after midday on a Saturday afternoon.
No warning was given and nobody has ever been prosecuted for the outrage.
The event – also on Bridge Street – was held to commemorate an attack which sparked a wave of public outcry.
Tim Parry’s parents Colin and Wendy stood near the spot where their son was fatally injured for the moment of reflection.
The couple have gone on to set up the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, a now internationally recognised centre for conflict resolution and victim support. Mr Parry addressed the event, attended by survivors, Northern Ireland minister Mike Penning and local dignitaries and community representatives.
He said two IRA volunteers had “calmly, clinically and coldy'' walked down this street planting two bombs knowing innocent men, women and children would be the victims.
He said his own son “died in my arms” five days later from his injuries.
“The men who murdered these innocent victims were never caught and never will be. But quite possibly they may be listening today and may realise the futility of their actions here in Warrington. It did not further their cause but it did further the cause of peace.”
Mr Parry said what began as an act of terrorism led to a sea-change in attitudes on both sides of the divide and led on to the peace process.
He said the Peace Foundation in Warrington had worked to build bridges in the divided communities by working for peace and reconciliation.
He added: “This town has made a difference, a real unique difference.
“Had things been different, Tim and Johnathan might well have walked where we are now, hand in hand with their own children now but instead let’s hope they are looking down saying ’well done Warrington’.”
In a message, Sir John Major, the Prime Minister at the time, said: “I well remember receiving news of the bombing, made especially poignant by the injuries suffered by two such young children which also in both cases proved fatal.
“My thoughts will be with all those whose lives were torn apart that day.”
Warrington has forged strong links with communities in Northern Ireland, and the Mayor of Lisburn Alderman William Leathem also spoke at the event.
He said: “Today on behalf of the city of Lisburn in Northern Ireland may I pay tribute to the people of Warrington for their determination and resolve over the last 20 years.”
Johnathan Ball’s family were represented by relatives of his parents. His father, Wilf, died in 2004 and his mother, Marie Comerford, died in 2009.
A further minute’s silence will take place at 12.27pm on Wednesday.