Belfast Telegraph

Birmingham pub bomb families say meetings with DUP and SF 'positive'

By Gillian Halliday

A woman campaigning for justice on behalf of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings yesterday described separate talks with the DUP and Sinn Fein as "positive".

Julie Hambleton, whose teenage sister Maxine was one of 21 people killed in the 1974 IRA atrocity, met senior party figures in Stormont as part of a delegation from the J4the21 (Justice for the 21) campaign.

The group, which describes itself as apolitical, spent nearly an hour with Arlene Foster and another with Michelle O'Neill in a bid to make headway in their campaign for a truth-recovery process.

"Both of the meetings were positive and both listened to our concerns and they agreed to take it to the British authorities. Both were very respectful," said Ms Hambleton, who added that the specifics of what was discussed would remain confidential.

She said their fight for justice had been a "frustrating process" over the years - including the group's ongoing legal battle to have an inquest into the bombings name those alleged to be responsible.

More than 180 people were also injured in the blasts, which took place in two pubs over 40 years ago. No one has been charged with the attacks since six innocent Irishmen, who were wrongfully convicted, were released from prison in 1991.

"It's not right that families have to rearrange their lives utterly and totally in order to campaign to have truth, justice and accountability," Ms Hambleton added.

When asked about Sinn Fein's links with the IRA, Ms Hambleton, who said ahead of the meeting with Mrs O'Neill that she was going in with a "blank sheet", stressed the single driving force behind the group was the loss of their loved ones.

"We can only walk in our shoes, and what we do, we do for our loved ones in their absence," she said.

Mrs Foster, who met the campaigners along with MLAs William Irwin and Peter Weir, said afterwards that the families, and those like them here and in Britain, had the DUP's "full support".

"That is why it is so important to have a comprehensive process to deal with the past in Northern Ireland, which must include the opportunity for families to seek truth and justice," said Mrs Foster.

Mrs O'Neill, who also offered her sympathy to the relatives of those killed or injured in the Birmingham bombings, said she continued to "support all families" in their campaigns for inquests, including the campaigners.

"The best way of achieving that is through the implementation of the legacy mechanisms," she said.

Belfast Telegraph

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