Who We Are

Jo Berry

On October 12 1984 an IRA bomb, planted in the 'Grand Hotel' Brighton killed killed 5 people and 34 people were injured. One of those killed was my Father, Sir Anthony Berry, MP. I was devastated and  shaken to my core by the pain and shock, I not only had lost my Dad whom I adored but I was thrown into a conflict and felt emotionally involved, I could not go back the person I had been.

Just 2 days later I made a personal commitment to bring something positive out of it and to try and understand those who had killed him.  I knew I had a choice whether to blame and  stay a victim or take responsibility for my feelings and start a journey. I have known the pain that wants to seek revenge but have chosen to not act on this impulse, instead to work on transforming my feelings and end the cycle of violence and revenge in me.

In 200I, I first met Pat Magee the ex IRA activist/terrorist who was the only one who was held responsible for planting the bomb. He was released from prison as part of the Peace Process. I wanted to meet him to hear his story and see him as a human being. We had an intense first three hour meeting, Pat started by giving his political position but half way through the meeting he opened up and became vulnerable, later saying my empathy disarmed him. Since then we have met over 80 times, sharing our story in many places and countries. Our first meetings became the subject of an award winning BBC documentary “Facing the Enemy”.

I believe we all have humanity in us and the way forward for a peaceful world is to give up projecting ‘enemy’ on to others. Instead we can learn to understand and to challenge behavior through non violence and peaceful means. If we can understand the roots of violence and conflict then we can address the underlying needs and find solutions which work for all. I believe we all have the capacity to be victims and victimisers, I know that if I had lived Pat’s life I may have made the same choices. demonising others, instead to challenge behavior.

I have dedicated my life to helping create a world where everyone wins, where the qualities of empathy and understanding take the place of judging and blaming, for it in only when we honour everyone that we will create a world which is really peaceful.

I have worked for over 10 years to resolve conflict around the world. I have worked with Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Forgiveness Project), the All Parliamentary Group on Conflict Issues, Combatants for Peace, The Basque movement and campaigned against the death penalty. I also work in prisons, schools, universities and organisations helping individuals and teams recognise the power of radical listening, finding alternatives to blame and find the courage to transform their lives.

I have been working with Pat Magee for the last 11 years, demonstrating how empathy can disarm and it is possible to listen and understand even when there are differences of opinion. Our unusual relationship has been  told in the BBC documentary “Facing the Enemy”, was featured in the film “Soldiers of Peace” and inspired “The Bomb” a play by Kevin Dyer.

Our use of metaphor in their dialogue has been studied and has become the catalyst of The Empathy network and the base of a academic book.

Recently we have spoken together at a Healing the Wounds of History conference in Lebanon, a cross community group in East Belfast and the Berghov Conflict Research group in Berlin.  We also are working regularly in Belfast.
I am working on the final draft of my book which will share my journey of transforming my pain and working for peace. I also work as a conflict coach/mentor.

I am Chair of the International Network of Peace, a network of people and groups who have been affected by violence and war and now working for peace.I have been awarded Visiting Fellow of the Institute of Democracy and Conflict Transformation at the University of Essex.

Dr Patrick Magee

Patrick was born in Belfast but moved with his family to Norwich when he was two years old. He returned to Belfast at the age of 18 in 1969, and joined the IRA soon afterwards.  He was declared responsible for the Brighton bombing that killed 5 people and injured 34. Pat was imprisoned in 1985 but released as part of the Good Friday agreement in 1999. He has been working with Jo Berry to achieve reconciliation with opposing groups in Northern Ireland and Palestine. He has also worked with Desmond Tutu on the Forgiveness Project. Whilst in prison he earned a PhD in ‘Troubles’ literature.