Richard Moore and soldier who blinded him tell story of reconciliation to Derry children

Thu, 10/11/2011 - 18:23 -- Editor

School children from across Derry gathered at the First Derry Presbyterian Church today to hear Richard Moore and the British soldier who blinded him with a rubber bullet speak on reconciliation.

The Children in Crossfire director was blinded as a 10-year-old boy he was struck in the face at close range a rubber bullet in May 1972. The man behind the gun, Charles Innis, a former Army Captain and Mr Moore met for the first time five years ago and are now friends.

In January 2006, during the making of the BBC documentary film “Blind Vision”, Richard Moore had his first, tentative meeting with the soldier who fired the rubber bullet that took away his sight on that fateful day over thirty years earlier. The meeting with the soldier, known then to him only as “Charles”, was to simultaneously provide a yearned for sense of closure and an unexpected glimpse of a new beginning …

Up until that day, the identity of the soldier had always remained a mystery to Richard. He knew he wanted to meet with him, but had no idea how he would feel about it. Would he have anything to say to him? Would the soldier have anything significant to say to Richard? Would the two men understand each other? Would they feel awkward in each other’s presence? Ironically the two men were already inextricably linked before a word was uttered. Richard describes the initial meeting as “surreal”. He adds that: "At times I am not sure about the reasons why I wanted to meet him, and then there are times I think that the most significant thing to ever happen to me was being blinded. The person I am, the work that I do, and the direction that life has taken and all the challenges I have faced throughout my life ... were all dictated by that incident.”

Richard and Charles have now moved on from their initial meeting and have actually become friends. The former soldier accepts that Richard was an innocent victim. The acceptance of this point was important to Richard. In turn, Richard came to understand that Charles carried his own burden of guilt, in consequence of his actions. Richard has stayed with Charles and his family on various occasions and the two men communicate on a regular basis. Despite all the odds the two men have reached a comfortable, peaceful place together.

Richard Moore has travelled on an extraordinary journey since losing his sight as a ten year old boy on the streets of Derry in 1972. He has turned a tale of potential human trajedy into a story of compassion and faith that has inspired others, including the Dalai Lama for whom Richard has become a "hero" for epitomising the human potential to forgive.