Maxine HambletonI have never been afraid to express my opinion, either privately or publicly.
Nor have I been afraid to admit my mistakes, and – wherever possible – not only apologise, but also seek to make amends and repair any damage done.
I have also done some stupid things in my life, as I am sure we all have.
Adults, it seems, are really not so different from the children they once were. When pressed, the justification for most of our mistakes is the same: It seemed like a good idea at the time. When faced with the mistakes of others, I certainly find it hard to understand why an apology cannot be offered. Most times, when we have been wronged, all we seek is an acceptance of responsibility from those who have wronged us, and a simple five-letter word: Sorry.
My very firm belief is that one should expect no less than decent human behaviour from everyone, even when that ‘everyone’ is a council, a government,
a law enforcement body or an official body charged with investigative powers. A government is granted its power by a democratic vote. That government is thus granted the authority to fulfill legal duties and civil functions as dictated not only by the law, but also the moral and ethical guidelines inherent within that particular society.
When we see a democratic system flounder beneath the weight of its own errors, all the while seeking to deflect not only responsibility but shirking all sense of social and civil obligation, I believe that we – as citizens, as human beings – have every right to express our outrage.
On the night of November 21st, 1974, the worst mainland terrorist attack to date took place right here in Birmingham. Twenty-one innocent civilians lost their lives, and close to two hundred people were seriously injured. (The picture is of Maxine, the 18-year-old sister of Julie Hambleton who was among those killed.)
Those responsible have never been brought to justice. The official investigation carried out by the Police not only resulted in the wrongful arrest, trial,
conviction and imprisonment of six people, but also served to highlight a fundamental flaw in our supposedly accountable system. We trust the authorities to execute their duties to a fault, and yet those same authorities do not feel any sense of duty or obligation to explain or apologise when those duties are shirked, or – in the worst of cases such as this one – omitted altogether.
In November this year there will be a commemorative concert in Birmingham Town Hall, subsequently a memorial service in St. Philip’s Cathedral. Once again, the people of Birmingham will stand shoulder-to-shoulder, heads held high, and remember not only those that lost their lives that night, but also acknowledge the taxi drivers, the emergency service workers, the Salvation Army volunteers and the good citizens of this city for all that they did to ensure that the number of fatalities was not even greater.
Had those brave and selfless people not stepped up to the plate then we would have been remembering and commemorating a great many more brothers,
sisters, sons, daughters and friends. My band, Zero Navigator, my dear friend Martin Smith (ELO), and other artistes and performers will lift our voices…not in protest, not in anger, but in memory of those who should still be alive today, those who would have been raising their own families here in this proud and great city.
We are not asking for a head on a pike. We are not making a political stance. We are declaring our right as free citizens within a democratic society to be told the truth, to understand how the families of the victims were failed, to insist that the powers-that-be accept responsibility, express an apology, and instigate what should have been instigated so many years ago: a full, honest, transparent investigation into the terrible events of November 1974 with the required vigor and tenacity to achieve a just result.
Acts of terrorism possess the power to irreparably wound the heart of a city.
Only truth possesses the power to heal.

Author: RJ Ellory

R.J. Ellory is an award-winning Birmingham born thriller writer and musician. His latest is ‘A Quiet Belief in Angels’

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