An inner shift is required to hear the story of the enemy. For me the question is always about whether I can let go of my need to blame, and open my heart enough to hear Patrick’s story and understand his motivations. The truth is that sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t. It’s a journey and it’s a choice, which means it’s not all sorted and put away in a box.
It felt as if a part of me died in that bomb. I was totally out of my depth but somehow I held on to a small hope that something positive would come out of the trauma. So I went to Ireland and listened to the stories of many remarkable and courageous people who’d been caught up in the violence. For the first time I felt that my pain was being heard.
In those early years I probably used the word ‘forgiveness’ too liberally – I didn’t really understand it. When I used the word on television, I was shocked to receive a death threat from a man who said I had betrayed both my father and my country.
Now I don’t talk about forgiveness. To say “I forgive you” is almost condescending – it locks you into an ‘us and them’ scenario keeping me right and you wrong. That attitude won’t change anything. But I can experience empathy, and in that moment there is no judgement. Sometimes when I’ve met with Patrick, I’ve had such a clear understanding of his life that there’s nothing to forgive.
I wanted to meet Patrick to put a face to the enemy, and see him as a real human being. At our first meeting I was terrified, but I wanted to acknowledge the courage it had taken him to meet me. We talked with an extraordinary intensity. I shared a lot about my father, while Patrick told me some of his story.
Over the past two and a half years of getting to know Patrick, I feel I’ve been recovering some of the humanity I lost when that bomb went off. Patrick is also on a journey to recover his humanity. I know that he sometimes finds it hard to live with the knowledge that he cares for the daughter of someone he killed through his terrorist actions.
Perhaps more than anything I’ve realised that no matter which side of the conflict you’re on, had we all lived each others lives, we could all have done what the other did. In other words, had I come from a Republican background, I could easily have made the same choices Patrick made.