Birmingham bombing victims’ families call planned Troubles amnesty ‘obscene’

Relatives of victims of the Birmingham pub bombings have described Government plans to introduce legislation to end all prosecutions related to the Troubles before 1998 as “obscene”.

The move is expected to be outlined by Secretary of State Brandon Lewis in the House of Commons, with a Government source saying it is necessary to stop Northern Ireland being “hamstrung by its past”.

Julie Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was among 21 people killed in the 1974 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.”

Shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh said the Government had vowed to properly investigate the bombings.

“To tear up that pledge would be insulting, and to do so without the faintest hint of consultation with those who lost loved ones would be staggeringly insensitive,” the Labour MP said.

“The Prime Minister should look victims’ families in the eye, and explain why he wants to close the book on their cases, and why they have been the last to be told about these proposals.”

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.

Birmingham pub bombings
Aftermath of the fatal bomb attack on the Mulberry Bush pub (PA)

In 2019, an inquest found a botched IRA warning was responsible for the victims’ unlawful killings.

However, the coronial process was described as “unsatisfactory” by some of the bereaved, for not prompting criminal charges against any of the perpetrators.

In November 2020, a 65-year-old man was arrested in Belfast in connection with the bombings by officers from West Midlands Police assisted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

He was later released and the police investigation continues.

In March, Justice 4 The 21 called on Home Secretary Priti Patel to give a firm commitment within weeks on holding a public inquiry into their loved ones’ deaths.