Dave Woodhall on why the pub bombs inquiry should take place.
Much local comment has been made recently about the petition which has been launched in an attempt to investigate the 1974 Pub Bombs. The petition, entitled 21 Reasons to Re-Open the Birmingham Pub Bombings Inquiry was set up by Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was one of those killed on that fateful night. The petition has failed to get a great response and has yet to reach 1,000 signatories, well short of the 100,000 required to gain a debate in Parliament.
Whether or not the debate ever takes place in the Commons, this investigation should be undertaken. Marcus Beale, assistant chief constable of the West Midlands, has stated that an investigation cannot be opened without fresh evidence. This could be obtained from, amongst others, former MP Chris Mullin, whose work with the Birmingham Six, culminating in his 1986 book Error of Judgement, played an important part in raising awareness of the case and who has said he knows the identities of the real bombers. Mullin claims he knows who they are but in his own words, “does not have evidence that would stand up in court.” I find it strange that he would devote much time to proving six men innocent, yet seemingly no time at all to obtaining the evidence that would see justice finally done.
But Chris Mullin is not the only man who could help solve this crime. Those bombs didn’t plant themselves, someone was responsible and it’s very difficult to get past the belief that there are men now in positions of power on both sides of the Irish border who know their identities. If they want to be seen as sincere in their desire for justice and equality for all, then they should be willing to share their knowledge with the rest of us, however much their actions may damage their standing in their own community.
And that word justice is the important one. It wouldn’t only be justice for the 21 people who died and the hundreds injured in the bombings, it would also be justice for the Birmingham Six, who were left in a strange kind of legal limbo, their convictions ruled ‘unsafe,’ declared innocent but never able to officially prove their innocence. There are people who still believe that the Six were guilty, and the absence of any further investigation enables conspiracy theories to flourish. A proper enquiry, whether or not it managed to obtain enough evidence to establish anyone’s guilt, would once and for all be able to prove the innocence of the Six. It remains extremely doubtful whether those responsible for this act of evil will ever be properly convicted and punished for the atrocity which scarred the city and stunned the nation, but it can never be too late for all the available facts of the case to be made public.
The petition can be viewed here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/24443