Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Sister of bombing victim tells of her OTR letters anger

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aiden (21) in the 1998 Real IRA blast which devastated Omagh

The sister of a woman killed in the 1974 Birmingham bombs said she felt she was "going to implode and turn to dust" when she heard news of the on-the-runs letters of immunity.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed, spoke of her horror while giving evidence at an inquiry into the peace process plan agreed between Sinn Fein and the last Labour Government which saw around 200 letters of assurance sent to OTRs telling them they were not wanted by UK police, but not ruling out future prosecutions if new evidence emerged.

Giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs at Westminster yesterday, Ms Hambleton was representing members of Justice4the21, which is campaigning on behalf of the Birmingham bomb victims.

She said she received no response from senior politicians after raising the case with them. And she described her reaction to the collapse of the John Downey prosecution which uncovered the existence of the letters. "I felt like I was going to implode and turn to dust," she said.

"This is the nadir of our justice system without any shadow of a doubt. What is the point in politicians setting legislation to not follow it? What is the point in having law in the first place if no one is going to follow it?"

Twenty-one people were killed and 182 injured when two bombs exploded at the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in Birmingham.

Earlier this year, after re-examining evidence, police said there would be no new inquiry.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his son Aiden (21) in the 1998 Real IRA blast which devastated Omagh, also gave evidence to yesterday's hearing.

He said: "The people that were responsible, the agents of the Government responsible for putting this (scheme) together, they should have to face some sort of sanction for doing this.

"The most basic denial of human rights that victims can get is the denial of justice."

Mr Gallagher gave evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs in London, which is investigating after the collapse of the case against a man accused of the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing which killed four soldiers. John Downey (62), from Co Donegal, was among those who received letters under the administrative scheme.

Story so far

The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee began an invesitgation into the process for dealing with on-the-run republican prisoners after it emerged a large number had received letters telling them they were not wanted by police for paramilitary crimes committed before 1998. The letters were revealed when the trial of John Downey was stopped after he mistakenly received one of the letters.

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz