AS Warrington came together to commemorate three decades since the tragic IRA bombing that took the young lives of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, mayors of Liverpool and Manchester, watched on in solidarity. 

Mr Bunrham, the former MP for Leigh and current Mayor for Greater Manchester, grew up in Warrington. 

Having returned to the town just a short number of weeks ago to pay respects at the Culcheth vigil for Brianna Ghey, he remembers the day of the bombing vividly. 

Runcorn and Widnes World: Andy Burnham at the Culcheth vigil for Brianna GheyAndy Burnham at the Culcheth vigil for Brianna Ghey (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Burnham described having just recently moved down south to London for work, and Football Focus being interrupted by a breaking news alert.

"I can remember an overwhelming sense of home sickness, of utter pain. Knowing how close to home it all was. It’s very vivid for me.

"I did grow up in nearby Culcheth, I often would come in here to the Golden Square in Warrington to buy Everton shorts at JJB. It’s why when I heard the story of what Tim was doing that day that it was so personal. It made such a connection with me."

Runcorn and Widnes World: Colin Parry, father of Tim Parry, speaking at the Commemoration event in WarringtonColin Parry, father of Tim Parry, speaking at the Commemoration event in Warrington (Image: Newsquest)

Mayor for Greater Liverpool, including Runcorn and Widnes, Steve Rotheram called the event a ‘JFK moment’ where “Everyone remembers what they were doing 30 years ago today.

“It had an effect on the lives of people in Warrington, but much further afield. And of course the knock on effects on the peace process.”

The deaths of Tim Parry and Jonathan Ball, who were 12 and three respectively, is considered to be a formative moment in the peace process between Ireland and the British government during ‘The Troubles’.

Runcorn and Widnes World: Tim Parry (L) and Jonathan Ball (R) who died in the Warrington bombingTim Parry (L) and Jonathan Ball (R) who died in the Warrington bombing

Colin and Wendy Parry, who created the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Foundation for Peace, were praised by Andy Burnham for their dignity and strength.

“We can look back and say that those events and the way Warrington reacted became decisive in the journey towards peace. Colin and Wendy will always have that, and will have the positive legacy that they’ve created through the peace centre and the foundation.”

This was a sentiment which Steve Rotheram agreed upon, adding that:

“John Major was here, a former Prime Minister, 30 years on. They were the first steps in trying to reconcile what looked to be an intractable problem, which is the north and the south even speaking to each other.

Runcorn and Widnes World: John Major at the event held in Warrington to commemorate the anniversaryJohn Major at the event held in Warrington to commemorate the anniversary (Image: Newsquest)

“The one thing that I would say that’s come out of this today, the main word used by most of the people who spoke was hope. Whilst it’s right to commemorate what happened and look back at the terrible tragedy 30 years ago, you have to have hope.”


When someone doesn’t know where Warrington is, the most common description used by a local would be: ‘It’s halfway between Liverpool and Manchester’. There is, and will always be, a cultural connection between the three towns.

This connection has only ever been strengthened by the support and solidarity that each has shown to one another through times of trauma and tragedy.

Mr Rotheram said: “Do you know when you’re talking about what happened here, that could have been people from Liverpool or Manchester. What happened in the arena was Liverpool and Manchester. What happened in Hillsborough was people from Liverpool, but also Manchester as well.

“We all are proud of our individual identities, but we’re all the north west – we’re neighbours. It can literally be anybody in any of our areas when something strikes like that.

“So, I think it's right that we’ve come and shown solidarity with the people of Warrington, because the people of Warrington showed solidarity in 2017 (during the Manchester Arena bombing) with Andy and Manchester, and certainly in 1989 with us at Hillsborough.”

Runcorn and Widnes World: Scenes from the Hillsborough tragedyScenes from the Hillsborough tragedy

Warrington as a town has experienced an extended period of mourning in recent years. 30 years since the bombing, a deeply significant milestone, has fallen just over a month since the death of Brianna Ghey.

This was something Mr Burnham and Mr Rotheram were deeply aware of when I spoke to them, the strength Warrington has had to show once again when one of their own is taken far too young.

Mr Burnham said: “Warrington always does come together. It was quite something to see the level of public support at Brianna’s vigil and I wasn’t in the country last Wednesday but I understand the same is true of her funeral. It’s the kind of place that Warrington is.

“It’s like our cities – it’s the same – we had support in 2017 from people here in Warrington, and from Steve when obviously we saw those tragic events at the Manchester Arena. Warrington supported Liverpool’s people through Hillsborough and the aftermath. The North West stands together.

“We’re both here today because the town of Warrington has carried itself with such dignity. The two big cities of the North West have always supported everybody here, and we’ll continue to do that. The North West stands as one.”

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