By David Hennessy
Members of the Justice 4 the 21 campaign who want to uncover the truth behind the Birmingham bombings of 1974 went to Downing Street in protest on Saturday to illustrate their disgust at the “letters of comfort” scandal.
The campaign’s Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died on November 21 1974, told The Irish World: “There needs to be a full judicial public inquiry according the Inquiries Act of 2005, which means there are public hearings, where witnesses are compelled to give evidence and the list of names published and would provide all victims of terrorism an opportunity to give their views on what has happened and what has not happened.
“The review that the Prime Minister has set up is more of a sprat to catch a mackerel, that was just to pacify Peter Robinson because he threatened to resign.
“It’s all one massive conspiracy. This government and previous governments, particularly Blair and Hain have conspired with known terrorists to allow them to continue to have their liberty.
“We’ve literally been stabbed in the back by the very people who we pay to represent us. To know that they were still sending out these letters in 2012 just beggars belief.”
It has emerged that 187 on the run terrorist suspects were sent what Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has called “get out of jail free cards”: Letters that assured them they were not being sought for crimes prior to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. The existence of the letters came to light when the trial of Hyde Park bomb suspect John Downey collapsed this month. Paddy Hill, who was wrongly convicted of the Birmingham bombings and spent 17 years in jail, has voiced his fears that he believes two of the real bombers received such letters.
Julie continues: “I wrote to the prime minister last Tuesday (March 4) saying: ‘Dear Prime Minister, my family and I would like to know if anyone involved in the Birmingham Pub bombings in 1974 has been sent a letter under the on the run terms of reference. Having lost our beloved sister Maxine in England’s worst terrorist attack of the 20th century, we are entitled to know such details. My family and I look forward to a speedy answer on this issue.’
“I’m sure they wouldn’t be so quick to be shaking hands and doing dirty deals like this if one of their own had been blown up beyond recognition.
“The likes of Hain and Blair have no honour towards their own citizens. They should be in the dock for sedition against the citizens of the UK and the citizens of southern Ireland because Irish people have suffered at the hands of the same terrorists as we have suffered.”
Northern Ireland secretary of state Theresa Villiers last week said that since December 2012 no letters have been issued by the Northern Ireland Office. Five outstanding applications from republican suspects seeking letters assuring them they are not wanted by police will not be processed by the government.
Ms Villiers said: “The NIO has no plans to take further action on those cases.”
“My understanding is the [Stormont] Department of Justice wants nothing to do with the scheme, so as far as the government is concerned this scheme is at an end.
“We are not going to be writing any further letters.”