Pub bombings families ‘closer than we ever have been’ to public inquiry

Julie Hambleton speaks to media outside the West Midlands Combined Authority offices in Birmingham, West Midlands, after the families of the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings victims met with Home Secretary Priti Patel (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)
18:49pm, Wed 28 Jul 2021
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The sister of a Birmingham pub bombings victim has said she believes they are “closer than we ever have been” to a public inquiry after a meeting with the Home Secretary.

Julie Hambleton along with other families affected by the 1974 blasts, met with Priti Patel on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of an inquiry, as well as making their views clear on the proposed “amnesty” put forward by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Ms Hambleton told the PA news agency the Home Secretary “took on board” the comments made by the families, who described the plans to end prosecutions for violence linked to Northern Ireland’s Troubles as “obscene and abhorrent”.

Birmingham Pub bombing victims (top row, left to right) Michael Beasley, 30, Stan Bodman, 47, James Craig, 34, Paul Davies, 17, Trevor Thrupp, 33, Desmond Reilly, 20 and James Caddick, 40, (second row, left to right) Maxine Hambleton, 18, Jane Davis, 17, Maureen Roberts, 20, Lynn Bennett, 18, Anne Hayes, 18, Marilyn Nash, 22 and Pamela Palmer, 19, (bottom row, left to right) Thomas Chaytor, 28, Eugene Reilly, 23, Stephen Whalley, 21, John Rowlands, 46, John ‘Cliff’ Jones, 51, Charles Gray, 44, and Neil Marsh, 16 (no picture available). West Midlands Police said 65-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the murders of 21 people in the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham (Birmingham Inquests/PA) (PA Media)

Speaking after the meeting on Wednesday, Ms Hambleton said: “It went better than I think we all anticipated, to be honest.

“She asked us to be candid, so we were, as she was.

“While she has made no commitment to give us what we want, which is a public inquiry, she has made the promise that her legal team will converse with our legal team to put forward the process for them to discuss the way forward, of how to structure us potentially having the public inquiry and what that will entail.

“From that, we can only but hope that from these discussions that that will hopefully take place much sooner rather than later.

The aftermath of the fatal bomb attack on the Mulberry Bush pub (PA) (PA Wire)

“We believe it will be within a matter of months… we believe that with our legal team particularly, I do believe that they will put the case so well that her team will realise that there is no other way but to give us a public inquiry.

“We’re closer than we ever have been, put it like that.

“We’ve had to wait nearly 47 years to get this far and she said that she works and acts with integrity.

“Well, we will keep her to that word.

“We will keep her to her promise for her team and our legal team to work together and communicate and structure together a way forward.

“If that comes off, I can only believe that there will be a fruitful outcome.

Home Secretary Priti Patel (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

“If it doesn’t then we need to find another way forward because without a public inquiry, we cannot achieve justice and accountability.

“If we can’t have that, we will continue to strive, we will continue to fight for those who don’t have a voice, because we are their voice.”

Ms Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was killed, went on to say: “As far as the amnesty proposal is concerned, you cannot put reconciliation and peace in the same sentence as an amnesty and truth and justice, they just don’t go together.

“It is abhorrent and it is obscene to do so.

“It cannot and will not possibly go through because it is unacceptable.

Asked if the families’ views on the amnesty had been taken on board, Ms Hambleton told PA that this was the case.

Julie Hambleton holds up a sign while speaking to media (Steve Parsons/PA) (PA Wire)

Ms Hambleton said: “She says she has her own views but she wouldn’t discuss them with us here.

“I think anybody who has any grey matter, even a five-year-old would know, it is an insane proposition.

“There’s no two ways about it.

“I don’t know what planet these politicians live on, because it most certainly isn’t planet earth.

“No one in their right mind would consider allowing mass murderers to walk free, knowing that they’ve killed, if not tens, hundreds and thousands of innocent people.

“If this was to go through, we are sleepwalking into a dictatorship… where we are going to be stopped from protesting.”

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