A senior coroner is to convene a special hearing to consider whether an inquest for those killed in the Birmingham pub bombings should resume, 40 years after it was adjourned.
The decision by Louise Hull, senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, has been welcomed by bereaved relatives of the 1974 attacks.
Twenty-one people were killed and 182 injured when suspected IRA bombs exploded in two city centre pubs on November 21, 1974.
Six men wrongly convicted of the murders – the Birmingham Six – were released in 1991 after their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal.
An inquest opened days after the bombings was closed without hearing evidence in 1975 in response to the guilty verdicts.
Campaign group Justice 4 the 21, which represents relatives of a number of the victims, has long been calling for a new inquest to be ordered.
The hearing will be convened in February next year and will focus on legal arguments about whether the senior coroner is empowered to resume the original inquest. A decision from Ms Hull is expected two weeks later.
The application was made by relatives of bomb victims Maxine Hambleton, Trevor Thrupp and James Craig.
Maxine Hambleton’s sister Julie welcomed the move.
“This is an important announcement for us,” she said.
“In February 2016 we will be able to ask a senior coroner to resume the inquest into the deaths of our loved ones.
“We have waited a long time for this and it will be difficult for us but we welcome this opportunity to seek answers to so many unanswered questions.”
Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six, supports the call for a fresh inquest.
“The families of the victims have received no support since 1974 and now would be the time to ask the difficult questions that need asking – no matter how uncomfortable for all concerned,” he said.
“The truth should be out – the families deserve an inquest in compliance with human rights.”
Belfast-based lawyer Kevin Winters, who has acted for some of the relatives, said: “This is a huge opportunity for the relatives of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings 1974 to address the senior coroner on why a resumption of the original inquest should take place as a mechanism to seek truth, justice and accountability for the loss of their loved ones, to establish who was responsible, what was known, what went wrong and whether these losses could have been prevented.”