Pub bombings survivor: Injustice is a price worth paying

Two explosions in two packed bars, just a few minutes apart, killed 21 people and injured nearly 200 more Credit: PA

Ben Chapman, ITV News

Forty years since the Birmingham pub bombings, not all those left behind want the truth about what happened.

It is said that the Birmingham bombings ripped apart not just the pubs in which they were planted, but the city itself.

Two explosions in two packed bars, just a few minutes apart, killed 21 people and injured nearly 200 more. In the days that followed, tensions grew between English and Irish as the IRA was blamed for the worst ever terrorist outrage in mainland Britain.

Throughout the 1980s, the city split again over whether the Birmingham Six, jailed for the crime, were guilty or innocent, and again in 1991 when their convictions were quashed.

Now, after two more decades of investigations that have gone nowhere, allegations of incompetence and cover up, and the advent of peace in Northern Ireland, the divide is between those who still pursue justice, and those who would prefer to let the past stay there.

The Tavern in the Town was one of the pubs targeted Credit: ITV News
The devastation caused by one of the blasts Credit: ITV News

The latter is a view Les Robinson apologises for holding.

He suffered serious injuries when the second bomb exploded in the The Tavern in the Town pub, forty years ago today. He concedes he might feel differently if he had lost a loved one.

But he tells me that justice for 21 people who can never be brought back is worth sacrificing to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Injustice is preferable to more pub bombings, he tells me.

Across town, Julie and Brian Hambleton take a very different view. Their sister, Maxine, then a teenager, was killed in the same pub in which Les survived.

Their ‘Justice for the 21’ campaign demands the police and government re-investigate and reveal the truth about who really killed their sister. They say they will never give up fighting for her.

Read: Pub bomb victims' families vow to continue fight for justice

Maxine Hambleton was killed in the attacks Credit: Family handout
The Justice for the 21 group protested outside Windsor Castle earlier this year Credit: PA

Unlike Liverpool, where the injustice of Hillsborough is seared into the city’s consciousness, Birmingham has largely put the bombings behind it. Some people stop to read the simple memorial in the cathedral grounds, but most simply pass by.

Everyone agrees how wrong and senseless the loss of those 21 lives were.

What can really be done about it all these years on is a much less unifying question.