Samuel Morrison: The number associated with Birmingham should be 21 – not six
The memory of the 21 innocents whose lives were brutally ended by IRA bombs has been much less long-lasting in the public mind than that of the six wrongly convicted of the bombing.
Two pubs, the Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in the Town, were targeted. With the second pub situated below ground level and crowded with over 100 young people, the slaughter was entirely predictable when the bombs were planted.
Not only has no one been held accountable for the bombings but to this day the IRA has never officially admitted responsibility.
Julie Hambleton, who lost her 18 year old sister Maxine in the 1974 atrocity, has maintained a high profile campaign for justice - albeit a frustrating one in an environment where convicted terrorists about whose guilt there was no doubt were released from prison while others who never faced a courtroom were given on the run (OTR) letters and even Royal Pardons.
One would have hoped that having endured such betrayal by the powers that be, whose most basic and fundamental duty is the punishment of evildoers, we could at least permit the families the space to remember their dead.
However, even this modest ask proved to be beyond Belfast City Council.
A request to place two simple floral tributes on a table inside the entrance of City Hall was declined in a meeting of the party group leaders.
The rationale for the refusal was telling.
City Hall told the press that: “All political parties at council have previously agreed to an annual Day of Reflection at City Hall, which provides an opportunity for people and communities to acknowledge the deep hurt and pain caused by the conflict in and about Northern Ireland.”
The idea of a “Day of Reflection” on June 21 was first officially proposed by the Consultative Group on the Past in 2009 which infamously suggested giving the families of all those who had lost a family member during the Troubles £12,000.
The proposal was rejected by innocent victims, appalled at the equivalence which it drew between their loved ones and those who died while engaged in acts of terrorism.
Tellingly, on Saturday Julie Hambleton was very clear that the wreaths which were being laid at Belfast were on “behalf of all innocent victims” – something which isn’t the case with events held on June 21.
Shamefully, the Government’s Legacy Bill appears to slam the door on any prospect of justice for the victims of Birmingham but that has been the direction of travel for some time.
The 2006 Victims and Survivors Order defines a victim as someone who was killed or injured as a result of “a conflict related incident”.
In the eyes of the law there is no difference between Maxine Hambleton - whose only crime in the IRA’s eyes was that she was English - and the terrorists shot during their failed attack on the RUC station in Loughgall 13 years later.
Glenn Randall and Ian Williams did receive a reception of sorts after my party’s deputy leader, Ron McDowell, organised an event in the Conor Room of City Hall during which the wreaths were presented to Mary McCurrie, whose father was murdered by the IRA.
However, the event took place in spite of rather because of the political establishment in our capital’s City Hall.
Belfast may have a Mayor who boasted on coming to office that he wanted to “showcase diversity” during his term but often you can learn most about a place by those it seeks to shove off to the side.
Perhaps if people were educated about the horrors in Birmingham in 1974 they would sing “Oo ah up the ra” with a little less gusto.
Samuel Morrison is the press officer for the TUV, in charge of the party’s communications. He hails from Dromore, Co Down