Northern Ireland

Bombing victims' families call planned Troubles amnesty 'obscene'

File photo dated 22/11/74 of the wreckage left at the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after an IRA bomb exploded. Picture from Press Association
File photo dated 22/11/74 of the wreckage left at the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after an IRA bomb exploded. Picture from Press Association

THE widow of a man killed by the IRA in one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles believes those responsible for his murder do not deserve an “amnesty”.

Kathleen Gillespie’s husband Patsy was killed in October 1990.

Mr Gillespie, a civilian worker in the Fort George British army barracks, was tied to a bomb and forced to drive to the Coshquin British army border checkpoint where it was exploded killing him and five soldiers.

Mrs Gillespie said anything less than the appropriate punishment for those responsible would not be just.

“For me to think that people could sit down around a table and plan something so horrendous; why should they not be punished for it; why should they expect to be told it’s OK, we’re not going to punish you, you can come out and talk about it now because you’re not going to face punishment; sure that’s ridiculous,” she said.

She told BBC Radio Foyle that she feared her husband would not receive justice.

However, Mrs Gillespie said she would meet those involved in her husband’s murder.

“I would make it clear from the beginning that I’m not going to forgive them and I don’t want them to ask for forgiveness, maybe a bit of remorse would be good.”

Other families who lost loved ones to paramilitary attacks during the Troubles also criticised the proposals.

Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon was killed in the 1993 IRA Shankill bombing, said the government was sending a message that "the death of your loved one, no matter who they were, whether they were killed by the IRA or by loyalist paramilitaries or by the British state, just didn't matter".

"To be honest with you I think that's a really, really hard message," he told the BBC.

"I think it's a message that victims and survivors will be very, very opposed to."

Serena Hamilton, whose father Cpl David Graham was an Ulster Defence Regiment soldier killed by the IRA in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, in 1977, said she was "absolutely disgusted".

"How can you move forward when you haven't got justice in the first place for such heinous crimes that happened to the likes of my father?," she asked.

Relatives of victims of the Birmingham pub bombings described the government plans as "obscene".

Julie Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was among 21 people killed in the 1974 IRA blasts in Birmingham, has written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on behalf of the Justice 4 The 21 campaign group to decry the planned legislation.

"Tell me Prime Minister, if one of your loved ones was blown up beyond recognition, where you were only able to identify your son or daughter by their fingernails because their face had been burned so severely from the blast and little of their remains were left intact, would you be so quick to agree to such obscene legislation being implemented?" Ms Hambleton asked.

"You would do everything in your power to find the murderers and bring them to justice, which is exactly what we campaign for every day."

The group queried the legislation's effectiveness at preventing potential acts of violence.

"How is this considered to be a deterrent for any future terrorist organisations?" Ms Hambleton said.

"What your government is proposing is that no matter what city terrorists decide to wreak death and destruction upon, do not worry because the British Government will let you walk away free without any fear of retribution of prosecution."

Two bombs planted in the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs exploded on November 21 1974, killing 21 and injuring up to 220 more.

A flawed investigation by West Midlands Police into the 1974 bombings led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six.

Nobody has been brought to justice for the blasts despite years of campaigning led by Justice 4 The 21.