As It Happens

Play explores friendship between IRA bomber and daughter of the man he killed

Patrick Magee and Jo Berry could easily be enemies. He was the IRA bomber who killed her father thirty years ago. Now, they’re friends. A new play in London tells their story.
'The Bombing of the Grand Hotel' (Courtesy of Wildspark Theatre and the Cockpit)

Patrick Magee and Jo Berry could easily be enemies. Magee was the IRA bomber who killed Berry's father 30 years ago.

However, over a decade later, they became unlikely friends. Their relationship is explored in a new play, The Bombing of the Grand Hotel, currently on stage at the Cockpit Theatre in London, England until May 2nd.

"In order to make sense of what had happened, I decided very quickly, within two days, to go on a journey... where I would understand those who killed my father and bring something positive out of it," Berry tells As It Happens co-host Carol Off. 

Jo Berry (Courtesy of Wildspark Theatre and the Cockpit)

On October 12, 1984, when Berry was 27 years old, Magee detonated a bomb in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England. He intended to kill then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, as well as her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel. Prime Minister Thatcher escaped injury, but five people were killed, including Jo's father, Sir Anthony Berry, who was an MP.

Magee received eight life sentences for his crime. But he was released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. A year later, Berry met Magee. Their meeting lasted three hours.

"I had very low expectations of that first meeting. I'd met other men who'd been in the IRA and I thought what would happen is he would almost justify his position and he would come from a place of righteousness," Berry says. "But during that first meeting he changed and he would later say that he was disarmed by the fact that I gave him empathy…And he started his own journey when he realised that he was guilty of demonising the other in the same way he'd accused the other of demonising him."

Patrick Magee, an IRA bomber convicted of the Brighton hotel bombing in 1984, leaves the Maze Prison for a ten-day Christmas parole break in Lisburn December 23. Magee was one of 160 terrorist prisoners allowed out for the traditional break. (Reuters)

Since that meeting in 2000, Berry and Magee have become friends. They also work together. In honour of her father, Berry started the charity Building Bridges for Peace. Now, she and Magee travel around the world, visiting places of conflict. They share their story with others to find alternatives to violence.

"He's no longer just the man who killed my father. He still is that. He's also the man who's shared experiences with me. Most of all, for me, it's been a transforming relationship. I changed. I didn't meet him to change him. I met him to change myself."

Ruairi Conaghan as bomber Patrick Magee as portrayed in a scene from 'The Bombing Of The Grand Hotel.' (Kim Hardy, courtesy of Wildspark Theatre and the Cockpit)
Rachel Blackman as Jo Berry in the play 'The Bombing of the Grand Hotel' (Kim Hardy/Courtesy of Wildspark Theatre and the Cockpit)

Watch a trailer of the play: