Peace centre opens up for children

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The Independent Online

He has told the story a thousand times but there is still a rawness in Colin Parry's minute recollections of his 12-year-old son's last morning. "I remember giving him a big squeeze, said Mr Parry. "His head came to here, beneath my chin. He fitted into you nicely."

Father and son went their separate ways and by nightfall that Saturday "a surgeon in his greens" was standing before Mr Parry, tipping a St Christopher chain and a watch out of an envelope. They were Tim's. It was the first confirmation that his son had been injured, let alone killed, in the 1993 IRA bomb attack on Warrington.

Seven years on to the day, Mr Parry will today achieve the creation of what has become the outlet for his grief, a £2.6m children's centre in Warrington. Without it, he said, "they would have carted me off long ago."

His desire to build a residential centre where young people could discuss, avoid and resolve conflict - building on the exchange scholarships for English and Irish youngsters that he has already established - conveniently coincided with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's aspiration to build a young people's centre as part of its campaign to end child abuse within a generation. The union of both ideals is the Tim Parry/Johnathan Ball Young People's Centre, which also commemorates the other, three-year-old, boy killed by the bomb.

The building's centrepiece is a cyber café and IT suite where the NSPCC hopes to create a safe but fashionable environment. Former premiers John Major and Albert Reynolds are expected at today's opening ceremony.

The twisted shape of the eye-catching, Scandinavian cedar building is intended to represent the "river of life", which is also symbolised by a fountain, constructed a mile away near where the bomb went off. Warrington is still somehow defined by its desire to bring something positive out of the bombing: in its current bid for city status, it labels itself "a town for peace".

The new centre will be the focus of Parry/Ball Trust's work in marketing learning programmes to schools, colleges and youth associations that help young people nationwide to deal with conflict of any kind.

The running costs of the 44-bed residential wing are Mr Parry's biggest challenge. The Irish government has given £30,000, but he is yet to receive any British government cash.

For its part, the NSPCC must prove it can be fashionable - and not just an victims' organisation - if it is to attract hundreds to its "students' union for young people". Its incentive is potential contact with the many children who will not admit to abuse because they will have no control over the consequences.

Mr Parry simply wants to see "a lot of young people, talking, laughing, playing, working, enjoying themselves" though nothing can hide how much more he longs to embrace his son once again. Tim would be 19 now, he said. "There'd just be no stopping him."