seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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The Brighton Hotel Bombing

The Brighton hotel bombing, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) assassination attempt against the top tier of the British government, takes place on October 12, 1984 at the Grand Brighton Hotel in Brighton, England. A long-delay time bomb is planted in the hotel by IRA member Patrick Magee, with the intent of killing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who are staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference. Although Thatcher narrowly escapes injury, five people are killed including a sitting Conservative MP, and 31 are injured.

Patrick Magee stays in the hotel under the pseudonym Roy Walsh during the weekend of September 14-17, 1984. During his stay, he plants the bomb under the bath in his room, number 629. The device, described as a “small bomb by IRA standards,” is fitted with a long-delay timer made from videocassette recorder components and a Memo Park Timer safety device. The device may have avoided detection by sniffer dogs due to it being wrapped in cling film to mask the smell of the explosive.

The bomb detonates at approximately 2:54 AM (BST) on October 12. The midsection of the building collapses into the basement, leaving a gaping hole in the hotel’s facade. Firemen say that many lives are likely saved because the well-built Victorian hotel remained standing. Margaret Thatcher is still awake at the time, working on her conference speech for the next day in her suite. The blast badly damages her bathroom, but leaves her sitting room and bedroom unscathed. Both she and her husband escape injury. She changes her clothes and is led out through the wreckage along with her husband and her friend and aide Cynthia Crawford, and driven to Brighton police station.

At about 4:00 AM, as Thatcher leaves the police station, she gives an impromptu interview to the BBC‘s John Cole, saying that the conference would go on as scheduled. Alistair McAlpine persuades Marks & Spencer to open early at 8:00 AM so those who have lost their clothes in the bombing can purchase replacements. Thatcher goes from the conference to visit the injured at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Five people are killed, none of whom are government ministers. But a Conservative MP, Sir Anthony Berry, is killed, along with Eric Taylor, North-West Area Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lady Jeanne Shattock, wife of Sir Gordon Shattock, Western Area Chairman of the Conservative Party, Lady Muriel Maclean, wife of Sir Donald Maclean, President of the Scottish Conservatives, and Roberta Wakeham, wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham. Donald and Muriel Maclean are in the room in which the bomb explodes, but Mr. Maclean survives.

Several more, including Walter Clegg, whose bedroom is directly above the blast, and Margaret Tebbit, the wife of Norman Tebbit, who is then President of the Board of Trade, are left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people are taken to the hospital and recover from their injuries. When hospital staff asks Norman Tebbit, who is less seriously injured than his wife, whether he is allergic to anything, he is said to answer “bombs.”

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Patrick Magee Found Guilty of Grand Brighton Hotel Bombing

patrick-joseph-mageePatrick Joseph Magee of Belfast is found guilty on June 10, 1986, of planting a bomb at the Grand Brighton Hotel in 1984 which kills five people but misses its primary target, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The bombing is testament to the ingenuity of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its bomb makers.

The 30-pound bomb is planted behind a bath in a room on the sixth floor more than three weeks prior to the Prime Minister’s visit. Timed to go off on the final day of the conference, it explodes in the early morning hours of October 12, 1984 and nearly wipes out most of Thatcher’s cabinet, killing five prominent Conservatives and injuring thirty-four.

The bomb destroys a bathroom that Mrs. Thatcher had been in just a few minutes earlier.

Magee stays in the hotel four weeks previously under the false name of Roy Walsh, during the weekend of September 14-17, 1984. He plants the bomb, which includes a long-delay timer, in the bathroom wall of his room, number 629. Magee becomes the primary suspect when forensic officers find his palm print on a hotel registration card following the blast.

Magee is arrested in the Queen’s Park area of Glasgow on June 22, 1985 with other members of an active service unit, including Martina Anderson, while planning other bombings.

Sentenced to a minimum 35 years in jail, he is released from prison in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement early release program. Magee is one of many on both sides of the conflict whose release raises differing emotions.

In one of the more compelling twists associated with the Northern Ireland troubles, Magee works diligently since his release to ease tensions in Northern Ireland and develops a strong working relationship with Jo Berry, daughter of Sir Anthony Berry MP who was killed in the Grand Brighton Hotel blast. They first meet publicly in November 2000 in an effort at achieving reconciliation. They have met publicly on more than one hundred occasions since that date.