Loyalists Hold Pub Bombings Rally

Saturday, 20 November 2004
2:48am (UK)
By Phil Hazlewood, PA

Loyalist sympathisers opposed to the Irish peace process are holding an event today to mark the 30th anniversary of the Birmingham pub bombings.

But organisers from the British Ulster Alliance (BUA) insisted the meeting in the city to mark the deaths of 21 people on November 21 1974 would be peaceful and not political.

A spokesman for the group, which is against the Good Friday Agreement and the decommissioning of Loyalist weapons, refused to disclose where the rally was taking place.

News of the event has caused some consternation in Birmingham’s sizeable Irish community since it was announced on the BUA’s web site last month.

Members of the Irish Community Forum in Birmingham have expressed their concern about possible damage to community relations.

But a BUA spokesman, who declined to be named, told the Press Association the police were aware of the meeting and they did not want to intrude on the grief of those who lost loved ones in the bombings.

They had also pulled out of a planned wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial to those who died in the grounds of St Philip’s Cathedral in Birmingham city centre.

He added: “This is causing concern within the Irish community. We can understand that...

“But we are saying, ’You have nothing to fear from us. We are not flying the flag and frightening anybody’.

“We recognise the contribution the Irish community has made to the whole being of Birmingham... This is about reconciliation.”

The spokesman, who said he was a former Loyalist prisoner who had served a five-year sentence for arms offences, said a minute’s silence would be held at the event.

The names of those who died would also be read out.

“It’s been made out to be a political event,” he went on. “It’s not. It’s an act of memorial by our existing members, long-term supporters and invited groups.”

Pat O’Neill, chairman of the Birmingham Irish Community Forum, said great strides had been made in the 30 years since the bombings in Birmingham.

Many Irish people in the city were unjustly blamed and suffered reprisals, including attacks on shops, people and property.

Mr O’Neill said: “It would be a shame if these people were to come along and destroy a very memorable occasion for people.

“They feel they need to do this. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as they respect what’s going on.

“It’s remembering those people who were killed. As long as it’s that, there’s no objections as such and hopefully it will happen in a peaceful manner.”

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