A SURVIVOR of the Warrington IRA bombings whose mother was seriously injured in the attack, now works in peace talks with fellow survivors who were affected by the conflict and former IRA members.

Harriet Vickers was 13 days old when two bombs exploded on Bridge Street, catching her mother Bronwen in the blast and devastatingly taking the lives of two innocent children.

Harriet, her sister Hannah, who was four at the time, and her mother Bronwen and father Paul were out shopping on March 20, 1993.

“It was the first day since I had been born that they had gone out. I can imagine as a parent with two young children, the sense of relief of getting out and about for the first time is major,” Harriet said.

The 30-year-old, from Knutsford, said her dad was waiting with her in the pram whilst Hannah and Bronwen went into Boots and as they walked back the bomb detonated inside a bin.

Bronwen, who was 32 at the time, suffered major injuries which resulted in her leg having to be amputated.

During the year after the shocking attacks, Bronwen had to learn how to walk again but was fearless in her recovery before she received the devastating news that her skin cancer which she had battled during her early twenties had returned – in an aggressive form.

Bronwen was diagnosed earlier in the year with skin cancer and sadly died July 7, 1994.

While Harriet has no living memory of her mother, Bronwen wrote a book about her life and upbringing in South Africa before moving to the UK – a possession she now cherishes.

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“I take it when I fly everywhere. I have that and a BBC documentary they did with her as a good record of her.

“It is lucky that I have that and the film to be able to learn about her life.”

Speaking of her mother’s bold character, she said: “I think after she woke up from the operations she asked if she could have a cigarette straight away. She really loved life and loved people.”

30 years on from the tragedy, Harriet works at The Peace Centre in Warrington, a centre set up by the parents of one victim of the tragedy, Tim Parry, in memory of their son and three-year-old Johnathan Ball, who were both killed in the blast.

Parents, Colin and Wendy set out to find the reason why the IRA chose to attack Warrington and have been building relations of peace between people who were affected by the conflict and the dissociated members of the IRA ever since.

Mirroring similar work to her mother, who was passionate about helping others and worked in halfway houses during her youth, Harriet said how she hopes Bronwen would be proud of the work she is doing.

“I am doing a lot of work with the types of groups she would work with. It feels accidental but I don’t think it is.

“I am clearly motivated by what happened and what she has done. I was on a residential in Ireland last weekend and in some moments, I do just think, ‘god what would she think of this’”.

Harriet spoke of a ‘lightbulb moment’ during her participation in a workshop which mixed survivors of conflict with people who had engaged in conflict and in this setting a former IRA quarter master was going to be present.

The job of a quarter master being to oversee the acquisition and maintenance of weaponry for the IRA.

“I was really very nervous about it. I didn’t know who this figure was going to be.”

“I walked into my colleague’s office and a woman from Ireland had already arrived and she turned around and she was so lovely and welcoming. She was so lovely and warm and then one of my colleagues introduced her as the quarter master.”

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The former Knutsford High student described wishing she could ‘bottle the feeling’ in that moment.

“It gave me clarity that they are human, they are not this fictional baddy, seeing them as a human being, interacting with me, it was such a metaphorical punch in the face.

“That was one of the biggest things I have taken in life, not to judge a book by its cover.”

Speaking on the work she does in helping build peace around conflict, she said: “One of the very early programmes the youth centre ran was a youth exchange programme between kids in Warrington and kids in Belfast and Dublin.

“For the 30th anniversary we have managed to get funding to revive that. The government in Dublin is funding that which is amazing.”

“We need to find different ways of managing conflict and working together,” she added.

“The work that I am engaging in is for the hurt that has been done to me, losing my mum. Every birthday for me comes with this anniversary. I cannot disconnect that.”

Harriet organises group work both in Warrington, Manchester, Liverpool, and Ireland, arranging talks with young and older audiences about how to handle conflict both present and past and looking deeper into the roots of that conflict from an angle of peace. The work she explains has been part of her process of grieving and gaining closure on the loss of her mother.

“We have another talk a few weeks after the anniversary which is all women peace builders and activists from here and across Ireland.”

Harriet will be attending the formal commemoration in Warrington to remember 30 years since the attack.

Speaking on Bronwen in relation to the work she does, she added: “I get a sense that she would want to have some of these conversations. This was her through and through even before this happened. She was curious of the workings of conflict and if she was still alive, I’m sure she would be doing this too.”

IT was a day Warrington residents will never forget.