The sister of a Birmingham pub bombings victim has said she believes they are “closer than we ever have been” to a public inquiry after a meeting with the UK Home Secretary.
Julie Hambleton, along with other families affected by the 1974 blasts, met with Priti Patel on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of an inquiry, as well as making their views clear on the proposed “amnesty” put forward by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.
Ms Hambleton said the Home Secretary “took on board” comments made by the families, who described the plans to end prosecutions for violence linked to Northern Ireland’s Troubles as “obscene and abhorrent."
Speaking after the meeting on Wednesday, Ms Hambleton said: “It went better than I think we all anticipated, to be honest.
“She asked us to be candid, so we were, as she was.
“While she has made no commitment to give us what we want, which is a public inquiry, she has made the promise that her legal team will converse with our legal team to put forward the process for them to discuss the way forward, of how to structure us potentially having the public inquiry and what that will entail.
Ms Hambleton said the families can now only hope that these discussions take place "much sooner rather than later."
“We believe it will be within a matter of months… we believe that with our legal team particularly, I do believe that they will put the case so well that her team will realise that there is no other way but to give us a public inquiry.
“We’re closer than we ever have been, put it like that.
“We will keep her to her promise for her team and our legal team to work together and communicate and structure together a way forward," she said.
“If that comes off, I can only believe that there will be a fruitful outcome.
If it doesn’t, the families will need to find another way forward, she added.
"Without a public inquiry, we cannot achieve justice and accountability.
“If we can’t have that, we will continue to strive, we will continue to fight for those who don’t have a voice, because we are their voice.”
Ms Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was 18 when she was killed, went on to say, as far as the amnesty proposal is concerned, "you cannot put reconciliation and peace in the same sentence as an amnesty and truth and justice, they just don’t go together."
“It is abhorrent and it is obscene to do so."
“It cannot and will not possibly go through because it is unacceptable."
Asked if the families’ views on the amnesty had been taken on board, Ms Hambleton told thenews agency that this was the case.
Ms Hambleton said: “She says she has her own views but she wouldn’t discuss them with us here.
“I think anybody who has any grey matter, even a five-year-old would know, it is an insane proposition."
Ms Hambleton said she doesn’t know "what planet these politicians live on, because it most certainly isn’t planet earth."
“No one in their right mind would consider allowing mass murderers to walk free, knowing that they’ve killed, if not tens, hundreds and thousands of innocent people."