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Families of Birmingham pub bombings victims hit out at Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis for ‘shameful snub’ over Troubles amnesty bid

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Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis

Julie Hambleton

Julie Hambleton

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Brandon Lewis

Families of those murdered in the Birmingham pub bombings have accused the Northern Ireland Secretary of “snubbing” them after not meeting them in person to discuss the Government’s Troubles’ legacy proposals.

Campaign group Justice4the21 last night revealed it has written to Brandon Lewis to demand a meeting to discuss the controversial plans, which have been criticised as representing an amnesty for both terrorists and security forces.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was murdered in the 1974 IRA atrocity, claimed the Government had been attempting to push through the proposals with the least amount of scrutiny possible.

“It is staggering that the Government has taken it upon themselves to try and get this legislation through ‘under the radar’,” she said.

"They have not even had the basic common decency to discuss this with the victims’ families and survivors of the horrendous atrocities that were committed against so many across Northern Ireland, England and beyond.”

The IRA planted two bombs at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs on November 21, 1974, killing 21 people and injuring 220 others.

Mr Lewis announced the proposals earlier this month, which would see the end of all Troubles-related prosecutions for cases up to April 1998.

The legislation would apply to military veterans as well as ex-paramilitaries, and would also end all legacy inquests and civil actions related to the conflict.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the plans would allow Northern Ireland to “draw a line under the Troubles” but they have been roundly condemned by all the main political parties in Northern Ireland.

Ms Hambleton last week described the plans as a “punch in the face” for victims’ families as people met at Downing Street last week to express their outrage at the proposals.

Last night a spokesperson for the Government said it was “committed” to engage with families to find a way forward on the issue.

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Julie Hambleton

Julie Hambleton

Julie Hambleton

The letter, signed by a number of Birmingham MPs as well as Labour Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louise Haigh, describes Mr Lewis’s ‘snub’ as “shameful”. It also demands he explain his plan to “slam the door shut on the families’ long, brave campaign for justice” in person.

“It is shameful that families were not even granted the basic courtesy of a meeting to discuss plans to grant an amnesty to those who murdered their loved ones,” it states. "Reports suggest that paramilitaries — the victim-makers — were aware of the proposals but victims themselves have been cruelly snubbed.”

It continues: “It is time you urgently held a meeting with the families of those killed and injured by the appalling atrocity in Birmingham, looked them in the eye and explain why you want to close the book on their cases.”

MPs supporting the call include Jess Phillips, Tahir Ali, Shabana Mahmood and Steve McCabe.

In response a Government spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to continuing engagement with a range of stakeholders, including victims groups to find a way forward on legacy issues that focuses on reconciliation, delivers better outcomes for victims, and ends the cycle of investigations that is not working for anyone.”

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