‘Where Grieving Begins – Building Bridges after the Brighton Bomb’: a live interview with Patrick Magee

A Tools for Changemakers event in the 'Stories for Changemakers' series

Patrick Magee 600x600

By Hajar Bichri


The second in Tools for Changemakers’ series of Stories for Changemakers took place on 25 August 2021, with an interview with Patrick Magee, who planted a bomb at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, in 1984, which killed five people. The series aims to foster difficult conversations by telling less-heard stories which explore both sides of a conflict.

Sixty-five people from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas listened in as Patrick Magee talked to Neil Oliver about his memoir, Where Grieving Begins – Building Bridges after the Brighton Bomb. After the interview, there was an opportunity for discussion in breakout rooms and questions to the speaker.


Patrick Magee (left) and Neil Oliver (right). Photo: Jeremy Le Fèvre


Patrick joined the provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the age of 19. He spent 14 years in prison for his role in the Brighton bombing and was released in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

In his book, Patrick describes the label of ‘the Brighton bomber’ as a ‘a thought- terminating cliché’, which, by placing the focus on him, has robbed people of understanding the context of the bombing.

The title of his book, Patrick explained, comes from a poem by the Chilian writer and politician Pablo Neruda:


The traveller asks himself: if he lived out

a lifetime, pushing the distance away,

does he come back to the place where his grieving began:

squander his dose of identity again,

say his goodbyes again, and go?

Patrick Magee interview

What I didn’t understand was Jo had a similar need to continue the talk.

Patrick saw planting the bomb as a ‘political obligation’. Seventeen months after his release from prison, he met Jo Berry, the daughter of its victims and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the situation. ‘You’re about to walk in the room and meet this person, and you’ve killed her father.’ The experience of meeting someone he had hurt but could not detect any animosity from was a tipping point. Two weeks later, Jo reached out to him again. ‘What I didn’t understand was Jo had a similar need to continue the talk,’ Patrick says.

In reply to a question about what he had learnt from Jo, Patrick spoke of the need to examine the past from different angles and the realization that just as his side had been demonized, they too had demonized those they saw as the enemy. He recalled thinking to himself as Jo talked about her father, ‘The goodness and value I perceive from this woman must at some level come from this man, and I killed him. When you break that down, I’ve killed a fine human being.’


Patrick Magee Neil Oliver Jo Berry screenshot


Answering questions from the audience, he expressed the inadequacy of the history taught in British schools and the lack of understanding of the effect on people of the partition of Ireland in 1921.

He was asked whether when he planted the bomb he was thinking about innocent victims. ‘There was consideration given to the likely consequences of the bomb,’ he replied. ‘For example, the bomb was planted at a time we thought civilians were least likely to be caught up in it… We were targeting those we felt most culpable for the conflict, those giving the orders that fed the terrorism on our streets.’

Would he be prepared to use violence again for the unification of Ireland? ‘No, leaving to say the fact that I am 70 and perhaps beyond being able to contribute in that fashion, I don’t believe violence is required to achieve our end… I am fully back in support of the peace process and its continuation and I believe in the end that will prevail.’

Jo, who had spoken in a similar Tools for Changemakers event, was part of the audience on this occasion. Towards the end, she and Patrick agreed that empathy played a crucial role in their dialogue and forgiveness process. ‘To make progress, it’s about getting to a situation of empathy where you try at least to understand and to explain,’ said Patrick. Jo added, ‘For me, empathy is more important than forgiveness.’

Empathy is more important than forgiveness.

Jo Berry Patrick Magee
Jo Berry and Patrick Magee in Caux, 2018




What the audience said


I’m from Cork and I’ve lived most of my life in Ireland. What you have to say is very much needed for the Republic of Ireland as well. I didn’t think I’d live to hear someone like you talking. So thank you. 

Elaine Gordon

I have been so moved by their journey and courage to continue on the journey. I have learned so much and been so inspired by their sharing with the world.


I feel there is a need for deeper discussions on this subject. I was really supported in my area where I have difficulties and insecurities to handle.





You missed the event? Watch the replay here.





Partner Organizations


The event was offered under the Young Ambassadors Programme as part of the Caux Forum Online 2021, in partnership with Movetia, Edventure: Frome and Beyond Boundaries


Tools for Changemakers is continuing to develop the Stories for Changemakers series, addressing different sides of conflicts. To learn more about upcoming events, keep an eye on our website.



Featured Story

related stories

Viki square EN no logo.png

Europe: A Mindset of Diversity

Spanish journalist Victoria Martín de la Torre is passionate about Europe, diversity and interfaith relations. Here she reflects on different aspects of Europe, based on her PhD research which led her...

Polina and Katya square faces EN

What is the meaning of home?

Amid escalating conflicts worldwide, the arts emerge as a potent force to challenge misconceptions and foster positive perspectives. The pivotal role of artists in creatively raising awareness has nev...

Ignacio India blog

Walking the Talk in Business

On 25 - 28 January, some 60 CEOs and other senior staff came together under Chatham House Rules to share personal experiences on how to balance a sustainable business with integrity and trust. Executi...

Save the date Caux Forum 2024 EN

Caux Forum 2024: Save the Date!

Save the date for the Caux Forum 2024! This summer Caux Initiatives of Change, in partnership with Initiatives of Change International and supported by other civil society networks, UN agencies, phila...

Caux Forum opening square website EN

Filling the gap in global efforts for peace and democracy

The Caux Forum 2023 Opening Ceremony set the tone for the conference with the theme, ‘Strengthening Democracy: The Journey from Trauma to Trust.’. Discover the report and relive the highlights of this...

Tsvetana 13 Sept 2023

Finding purpose and harmony through music and the Caux Palace

In a world filled with diverse cultures and languages, the journey of musician Tsvetana Petrushina is an inspiring tale of how she discovered her purpose. Her remarkable story led her to the Caux Pala...

Save the date 2023 square no date

Caux Forum 2023: Save the Date

We are excited to announce the Caux Forum will be back in Caux next summer! Find out more and save the date! ...

Arpan Yagnik

Arpan Yagnik: Mountains to climb

Arpan Yagnik, a participant of last year's Creative Leadership conference and team member of the IofC Hub 2021, talks to Mary Lean about creativity, fear and vocation. ...

YAP 2021 article square

Young Ambassadors Programme 2021: Learning to listen

When Indonesian law student Agustina Zahrotul Jannah discovered the Young Ambassadors Programme (YAP) on Google she felt both excited and hopeless: excited because she hoped it might give her the skil...

Zero waste square for social media

Sofia Syodorenko: A zero waste lifestyle is a mindful lifestyle

How did Sofia Syodorenko become involved in the zero waste movement, and what does it mean to her? Now Chair of Foundations for Freedom, she is also a representative of the Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine...

YAP goes online

The Young Ambassadors Programme goes online

The Young Ambassadors Programme (YAP) went online for the first time this summer, after six years of continuous growth and development and a pause in 2020 for reflection and adjustment to the new real...

Summer Academy 2021 screenshot square

Forging a network of problem-solvers to build a secure and sustainable future

The Summer Academy on Climate, Land and Security 2021 brought together 29 participants from 20 countries. From Egypt and Senegal to the United States and Thailand, zoom windows opened for six hours ev...

Salima Mahamoudou 21 July 2021 FDFA workshop CDES 2021

Remaking a world in peril

The Caux Dialogue on Environment and Security (CDES) 2021 ran online from 20 July until 30 July, for the second consecutive year, comprising three open plenaries and seven workshops. This year’s discu...

CL 2021 Hope square

A Journey from Uncertainty to Possibility

2021’s Creative Leadership conference took participants on a six-day journey ‘From Uncertainty to Possibility’. Between 25 to 31 July around 150 online participants living in over 50 countries engaged...