British counter terrorism police have arrested a man in Northern Ireland over a series of pub bombings in 1974 which killed 21 people

Davies

The interior of the Mulberry Pub after 1974 IRA bomb blast

British counter terrorism police have arrested a man in Northern Ireland over a series of pub bombings in 1974 which killed 21 people.

Key points:

  • The bombings took place at two pubs, the Mulberry Bush and The Tavern, during a busy Thursday night on November 21, 1974
  • Six men were arrested the next day and later convicted, but those convictions were overturned in 1991
  • British Home Secretary Priti Patel is considering holding a public inquiry into the attack

The attacks on the crowded Mulberry Bush pub and The Tavern in central Birmingham on the night of November 21, 1974, were the deadliest chapter on mainland Britain during 30 years of violence during the Northern Ireland conflict, also known as The Troubles.

A further 220 people were injured.

Although the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was believed to have planted the explosives, it never claimed responsibility.

West Midlands Police said officers from their counter terror unit had arrested a 65-year-old man at his home in Belfast on Wednesday with the assistance of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

The man was arrested under the Terrorism Act and a search of his home is being carried out,” West Midlands Police said in a statement.

“He will be interviewed under caution at a police station in Northern Ireland.”

The blasts were one of the worst attacks suspected to have been committed by the Irish Republican Army during its decades-long armed campaign to get Britain out of Northern Ireland. The campaign officially ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

British Home Secretary Priti Patel said a month ago that she would consider holding a public inquiry into the bombings.

‘Overwhelming news’

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine died in the bombings, said the arrest was “the most monumental event” in the criminal investigation into the bombings since the 1975 murder convictions of six Irishmen, widely referred to as the Birmingham Six, were thrown out in 1991.

Ms Hambleton said she broke down in tears when a senior West Midlands Police officer telephoned her with news of the arrest.

“It’s overwhelming news.”

Ms Hambleton, who is part of an advocacy group called Justice for the 21, said that whatever happens with regard to the arrest “does not in any way lessen our desire for a full public inquiry to be held”.

She said there are “wider issues” that need to be examined, including “why six men were arrested for a crime they didn’t commit”.

“How was it that for so long, after 21 people were blown up and more than 200 other innocent souls were injured, nobody was looking for the perpetrators?”

In the day after the bombings, six men were arrested before being convicted the following summer.

They were released in March 1991, following a ruling by the Court of Appeal, and their convictions represent one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement helped end three decades of sectarian violence between paramilitary groups, mainly the IRA, that wanted to unify Northern Ireland with Ireland, and those who insisted it should remain part of the UK.

More than 3,500 people died during The Troubles.

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