Birmingham families' renewed hope

Birmingham families' renewed hope

Julie Hambleton (Photo by Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

THE MAYOR of West Midlands has given hope to campaigners for a public enquiry into the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings.

Andy Street was addressing hundreds of supporters including bereaved families who gathered to commemorate the 49th anniversary of the 21 innocents killed.

Explosions ripped through two city pubs, the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town on November 21, 1974.

The local Conservative mayor has drawn gratitude from campaigners for his long term support of their cause for justice in meetings with successive Conservative Home Secretaries.

Mr Street told those assembled at the Memorial Tree sculpture outside Birmingham New Street Station of the campaigners' determination. "We want what every victim of crime has - closure and the nearest we can get to justice being done" he said.

The former John Lewis businessman continued, "I personally hope that they [the Home Secretary and Security Minister] will decide that a public enquiry is the only way that justice can be brought. I will continue to give my very fullest endeavour to supporting the families to bring what they are entitled to."

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year old sister Maxine was among the fatalities of the pub explosions was encouraged to 'keep going' by supporters as she emotionally addressed the crowd, mindful of the timing of the occasion.

"At this time 49 years ago, they were still alive, and that's hard for us as families" she said. Mrs Hambleton who leads the Justice for the 21 campaign group of relatives paid tribute to Birmingham Irish Association CEO Maurice Malone, who also attended.

The campaigner thanked the West Midlands Irish community and Mr Malone in particular for "his indomitable spirit, his tenacity, his bravery and his hard work" in supporting the families' justice efforts. including the building of the 15 feet high sculptural steel trees standing outside Birmingham's Grand Central shopping mall, unveiled in November 2022.

This year's commemoration began with a solemn reflection and service in the city's St Philip's Cathedral, where the names of the 21 victims were read out as the Cathedral's bells chimed 21 times. In addition to local attendees, supporters travelled to the commemoration from Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic. London and the south coast of England to pay respects.

Campaigners also received trans-Atlantic support with a letter of solidarity from the United Nations Regional Centre of Expertise outside the US capital in Salisbury, Maryland supporting the Birmingham families' quest for justice against the recently-passed controversial Legacy Act.

Many victims groups across Ireland and the UK have described the recent Act as providing an effective amnesty for perpetrators. Mrs Hambleton thanked UN professor Brian Polkinghorn for American support and said of the current British government, "I believe they know full well we all mean business. We will fight for those who have no voice till we no longer have ours."

Peter Kelly