Republic of Ireland news

Birmingham pub bombings families hope Irish support will help get public inquiry

Michael D Higgins, centre, and his wife Sabina Coyne, left, with family members of victims of the Birmingham pub bombings at Áras an Uachtaráin. Picture by Brian Lawless, Press Association
Aine McMahon, Press Association

The families of those killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings feel they may have to shame the British government into holding a public inquiry into the deaths.

Relatives who have formed the Justice For The 21 group were in the Republic to ask the Irish government to back their call for an inquiry, and described their meetings over the three days as positive.

In April 2019, an inquest jury in the UK found a botched IRA warning call led to the deaths of 21 people unlawfully killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.

Two massive detonations caused what one witness described as "pure carnage", ripping apart the packed Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on the night of November 21, killing 21 and injuring 220 more.

Julie Hambleton, sister of 18-year-old victim Maxine Hambleton, said the inquest left the families "with more questions than answers" and they now want a public inquiry.

The Justice For the 21 group met Tánaiste Simon Coveney in Dublin on Thursday and President Michael D Higgins on Wednesday night.

Ms Hambleton said she hoped the support they have received from the Irish government will shame the British government into holding an inquiry.

"One would hope that we could shame them into it but you can only shame them if they have a conscience. The proof is in the pudding as they say," she said.

Ms Hambleton said the meetings with the Irish government were positive but did not confirm if they have supported their calls for an inquiry.

"Simon Coveney has been generous, hospitable, supportive and sensitive," she said.

"They have given us time and respect and we want to give them the same respect. As such, we don't want to discuss what was said during our meetings. They have been very supportive and we are going to stay in contact."

Earlier today, the group met former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and ministers and senators who are part of the Good Friday Agreement Committee.

"They have been very polite and kind and have actually listened and they want to stay in touch with us," she said.

"We met Bertie Ahern, who was extremely insightful and is a diplomat and politician through and through. He gave us some excellent advice and support and he openly supports our calls for a public inquiry.

"They listened to us and hear us.. they have done more for us than our own British government has. Our loved ones have been honoured by being remembered by them. It is something we will never forget.

"Our visit to Ireland has been monumental and we hope it makes a mark for all of the Irish people who live in the United Kingdom and to come out and be proud of being Irish and to come out and join us in our plight for truth and justice.

"The Irish hospitality we have experienced here has been second to none and on behalf of the families, we would like to thank Ireland as a country."

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