Two things in life I’m fiercely proud of are my Irish heritage and my Brummie roots, and it’s always been heartening to see the city I call home embracing the culture, history and valued contribution of my ancestors.
It wasn’t always like this.
40 years ago, on this day, bombs planted by groups purporting to represent the Irish people tore through two pubs in our city, resulting in the senseless slaughter of 21 predominantly young people who were simply out to have fun. Ordinary folk enjoying their lives.
They weren’t the only victims. There’s the six falsely accused men who spent 16 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, of course. But let’s not underestimate the impact on Birmingham’s Irish community, who despite unanimously denouncing the horrors that unfolded, suddenly found themselves treated as outcasts in their own city.
Mercifully, tensions eased and wounds healed. The bombings occurred ten years before my birth and I’ve grown up in a region where Irish culture is celebrated, as demonstrated by the fact that Birmingham now hosts an annual week-long Irish festival culminating in one of the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades.
Nonetheless, there will never be closure while so many questions remain unanswered. Us Brummie folk are the sort to keep our heads down, to accept our lot and carry on regardless. Public grief or impassioned campaigns for justice don’t really sit too easily with our psyche.
But until we achieve justice for those people whose lives were so abruptly ended on that night 40 years ago, the cloud over our heads will never clear.
It’s time for Birmingham’s Irish to stand up once more and say ‘not in my name’.
It’s time for us to maintain our united front whilst finding our voices.
It’s time for Justice for the 21.
You know it is. It really is.