A new book exploring the life stories of people directly affected by the Troubles includes the poignant and powerful tale of Derry man Richard Moore.
“Forgiving and Remembering in Northern Ireland: Approaches to Conflict Resolution” is written by Graham Spencer, an academic at the University of Portsmouth.
The book - which includes a foreword by Lord Eames of Armagh - brings together contributions from people with direct experience of notorious incidences associated with the conflict in the North.
In 1972, aged just 10, Richard Moore was blinded by a rubber bullet. He has, however, embraced his blindness as an opportunity to “see life in a different way” and talks of his forgiveness towards Charles Innes, the British soldier who shot him and who he met recently.
As the Dalai Lama put it when talking about Richard’s story: “Despite his own loss, he has found freedom through forgiveness.”
Richard tells Graham Spencer that he was never “obsessed” with the man that shot him.
“I didn’t know anything about him,” he says. “It was like a military wall had blinded me... but, when you began to get down beneath that and see a person, a human being, a man, a decision, you start to ask: How is he? How does he feel? Where is he?”
“Never did I feel any resentment towards him. I think there were times in my life when I wondered if he understood the hurt that he caused - particularly when I found out his name and began to find out more about him.”
Richard adds: “It helped to know him, but I didn’t have to know him. I forgave Charles long before I ever knew his name and I think that’s very important. I think one of the big things about forgiveness that can often be overlooked is that it’s not about the person you’re forgiving - it’s about yourself.”
Richard also reveals what happened at his first ever meeting with Charles.
“As you can imagine, it was awkward for the first ten minutes or so. He was meeting a blind person whom he blinded. I was meeting the guy who blinded me. And so it was a kind of fingers and thumbs situation for maybe 20 minutes.
“What I said to him - and I can say this almost verbatim because I thought it out in my head so many times - was: ‘Look, Charles, I’m not here today to talk about May 4, 1972 endlessly; I’m not here to be confrontational; I’m not here to make you feel guilty; I’m not here to make you accountable to me; I’m here to let you know that I forgive you and I’ve always forgiven you. I’ve no hatred towards you’.”
And, what did Charles Innes say in reply: “He thanked me, first of all,” says Richard, “and he said that he regrets what happened that day, that, when he fired the rubber bullet, he never meant to cause the damage he caused... and, if he had known the damage it would cause, he wouldn’t have fired it.”
“Forgiving and Remembering in Northern Ireland” was launched last night at the Bookshop at Queen’s in Belfast.