Belfast Telegraph

Deadly Birmingham bombings are remembered 40 years on

By Richard Vernalls

Relatives of the victims of one of the worst peacetime bomb attacks on in Britain have gathered in solemn remembrance of the deadly atrocity's 40th anniversary.

Families of the 21 who died in the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974 were joined by the survivors at a special evensong at the city's St Philip's Cathedral last night.

Among those mourning were Julie and Brian Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died.

They have been at the heart of the Justice 4 The 21 campaign calling for a full inquiry into who was responsible for the atrocity.

The IRA carried out the attacks, among whose victims that night were brothers Desmond and Eugene Reilly, whose family were originally from Co Donegal.

Speaking after the service, attended by about 350 people, Mrs Hambleton said there was an overwhelming feeling of sadness.

"My sister would have been 58, she could have been married, had children, she could have been anything she wanted to be," she said.

"She had her whole life ahead of her.

"We really miss her."

That night, confused bomb warnings were telephoned in only minutes before the initial blast tore through the Mulberry Bush pub in the city centre's Rotunda, killing 10 people.

A second explosion ripped through The Tavern In The Town in New Street, claiming 11 lives.

In all, 182 people were also injured, leaving many with dreadful blast wounds.

A year later, The Birmingham Six - Paddy Joe Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Richard McIlkenny, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker - were wrongly convicted of carrying out the bombings but their convictions were quashed on appeal in 1991.

Inquests into the deaths have never been held.

In stark contrast to the chaos and confusion of that night, the city's old cathedral provided the venue for a solemn evensong service of reflection with many freely shedding tears in lament for the lost.

Outside the cathedral, 21 candles - one for each of the victims - were placed alongside posies of flowers by the permanent memorial in St Philip's Square.

At the moment of the first explosion, 8.26pm, a minute's silence was held.

The Birmingham bomb blasts represented the deadliest attack on Britain until the July 7/7 London bombings in 2005.

The bombers have never been caught.

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