Birmingham pub bomb families still hope IRA killers will face court

Julie Hambleton and other Birmingham pub bombing campaigners pictured at the launch of a recent fundraising drive
Julie Hambleton and other Birmingham pub bombing campaigners pictured at the launch of a recent fundraising drive

The sister of a teenage girl who died in the Birmingham pub bombings has said her family retains hope of one day seeing her IRA killers in the dock of a court.

Maxine Hambleton was 18 years of age in November 1974 when separate bombs ripped through the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs in the city centre killing 21 people.

Her sister Julie and other family members have travelled to Belfast today, along with other members of the ‘Justice for the 21’ group, for meetings with both the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Ms Hambleton said it was important that the victims’ families have their voices heard during the ongoing legacy consultation on how we deal with the past.

She said her own family’s drive was to attain “full justice” – including prosecutions.

“How can we live with ourselves if we leave that to the next generation? When we allow mass murderers to kill with impunity, and without fear of any retribution. What kind of a country will we leave behind? Because we cannot in good conscience, both for us and future generations.”

Ms Hambleton added: “How is it possible for our government and our police to continue to refuse to investigate the murderers?”

Six men were found guilty of the bombings and spent 16 years in prison before the convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal. In May this year, the government launched a consultation process on how to deal with the legacy of the Troubles violence.

The consultation document and draft bill outlines plans for: a Historical Investigations Unit; an independent commission on information retrieval; a reconciliation group with representatives from both the UK and Irish governments and the main political parties; and an oral history archive to record the memories and stories of the Troubles in a single archive. The consultation will continue until September 10.

Ms Hambleton said her campaign group is determined to ensure there is access to a “human rights compliant mechanism” that would establish the full truth about the death of their loved ones.

She said there was cross-party support for their campaign, but so far only a tiny percentage of MPs has backed them publicly. She said they hope today’s trip to Belfast will lead to greater recognition.

A DUP spokesman said the party was looking forward to meeting the families, and said it was “important to acknowledge that the impact of terrorism was felt by many people outside of Northern Ireland.”

He added: “The Birmingham families have tirelessly campaigned for justice and only last year faced further pain when a self-confessed IRA terrorist refused to give details about the incident.”

Sinn Fein’s Linda Dillon said her party has been “very clear that the legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House Agreement should be implemented for the benefit of all victims and survivors from all sides of the conflict,” and added: “We welcome the opportunity to meet with the relatives of the Birmingham pub bombings to allow them to outline their concerns.”