16 September 2023

Sister of Birmingham pub bombs’ victim vows to fight on against NI legacy law

16 September 2023

A sister of a woman killed in the Birmingham pub bombs has vowed to continue the fight against controversial legislation that could see the bombers granted immunity.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine lost her life in the 1974 IRA attacks, branded the contentious Legacy Bill a “betrayal” of victims.

She was speaking as two supporters of the families’ campaign for justice – Ian Williams from Preston and Glenn Randall from London – completed a walk from Birmingham to Belfast to raise awareness and also funds to support a potential legal challenge against the Bill.

Mr Williams and Mr Randall carried wreaths commemorating victims of the Troubles as they arrived at Belfast City Hall on Saturday morning.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill has been passed into law and is awaiting royal assent.

It will grant perpetrators of Troubles crimes immunity from prosecution if they co-operate with a truth-recovery commission.

The legislation will also halt all future civil cases and inquests related to the conflict.

Twenty-one people died in the Birmingham attacks in November 1974, which remains the worst unsolved terrorist atrocity committed in Great Britain.

The bombings have been re-investigated by West Midlands Police but the Crown Prosecution Service announced last month that there was insufficient evidence to bring charges.

“On behalf of all innocent victims we honour their memory and we will continue to fight and challenge this betrayal by this British government to bring justice once and for all, to all,” said Ms Hambleton.

She accused the establishment of burying the memories of lost loved ones.

“Irrelevant of what colour the government is in the UK, they all want to keep the truth buried,” she said.

“And that’s exactly what this Bill is all about. It has nothing to do with soldiers and protecting them from vexatious cases, nothing at all. They’re using them as scapegoats.

“This is all to do with the British state, of successive governments over decades, keeping the truth of their collusion and complicity in murders well and truly hidden and buried.

“They want to control the narrative. It’s as simple as that. They have all the information that could provide us with most of the answers to our questions and so many other families. But that’s what they’re scared of – the truth coming out.

“This Bill is to enable them to control the narrative as to who gets to see what.”

Several people bereaved during the Troubles have already initiated legal proceedings against the Bill.

Mr Williams said he took on the challenge having been inspired by the campaign of the Birmingham families.

“I just knew I had to do something,” he said.

“Doing a walk doesn’t seem much, but I just felt I wanted to raise awareness. It’s the right thing to do. Simple as that.”

Mr Randall added: “Me and Ian aren’t the richest people in the world, but we can walk. So that’s what we do, we walk.”

Ms Hambleton indicated that money raised by the walk would likely support an action by the Birmingham families.

“The British government, the British state, continue to deny us legal aid, we’ve been denied legal aid in England and Wales 14 times,” she said.

“It appears that victims of terrorism count for nothing. So that’s why we raised money for when and if we need to bring legal cases, which I’m sure with this royal assent coming to land at our gates some time next week there will be plans to use the money that we’ve been raising all these years.”

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