Pub bombings victims remembered

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Published: Friday 21st November 2014 by The News Editor

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Relatives of the victims of one of the worst peacetime terrorist attacks on the British mainland are gathering to remember the 40th anniversary of the atrocity.

Families of the 21 who died in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 say hundreds will be attending a special memorial service in the city.

After an evening mass at St Philip’s Cathedral, grieving mourners will gather outside for a minute’s silence to coincide with the exact moment on the evening of November 21 when the first of two bombs detonated inside packed city pubs.

The initial blast tore through the Mulberry Bush at the foot of the city centre Rotunda near what is now the Bullring Shopping Centre, killing 10 people.

A second explosion ripped through The Tavern in the Town in nearby New Street, claiming 11 lives.

In all, 182 people were also injured, leaving many with dreadful blast wounds.

The IRA is widely believed to have carried out the attacks.

A year later, the Birmingham Six – Paddy Joe Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker – were convicted for carrying out the bombings but their convictions were quashed on appeal in 1991.

The families and friends of those killed, through the Justice 4 The 21 group, are continuing to call for a public inquiry into who was responsible for the killings.

Julie Hambleton, whose then 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the bombings, said it was of utmost importance the victims were “never forgotten”.

But she also asked for national eyes to be focused on their campaign.

Ms Hambleton said: “Innocent people were slain for no reason and no-one is looking for the murderers.

“We need the country to get behind us.

“None of us want to be on the news, talking about this, when we should be allowed to grieve, but we get no help from the Government.

“It is a means to an end, to put pressure on the establishment.”

The Birmingham bomb blasts represented the deadliest attack on mainland Britain until the July 7/7 London bombings in 2005.

Other than the Birmingham Six, no-one else has ever been charged over the attacks.

In their case, the Court of Appeal ruled after it was found the men’s original statements had been altered and forensic evidence supposedly linking two of them to the explosives was unsafe.

Asked about her hope for the future, Ms Hambleton added: “We will get there.

“We miss Maxine and want to remember her and the other 20.

“If she was here, and it had been one of us, she would be screaming from the rooftops – that’s what she was like. So, we will fight to our dying breath.”

The memorial service begins at 7pm and follows a special memorial concert held at the city’s Town Hall last night.

Birmingham City Football Club has said it will also be paying tribute to the bombings’ victims at its home fixture in the Championship against Nottingham Forest on November 29.

The victims’ names will be read aloud at half-time and displayed on the big screen at the St Andrew’s ground.

A club spokesman said: “This is a chance for both the club and its supporters to honour the memory of those who lost their lives.”

Published: Friday 21st November 2014 by The News Editor

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