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Reflections thirty years on from the Brighton Bomb

Monday, October 06, 2014

 

Having just been through another party conference season it is worth reflecting on the events of the 12th October 1984.  

It has been thirty years since the IRA detonated a bomb in the Grand Hotel, Brighton killing five and wounding over thirty others. Their aim was to kill Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister at the time, her senior Cabinet and to destabilise the Government.

At 2:54am residents at the Grand Hotel awoke to the blast of a 100lb bomb that had been planted by Patrick Magee of the IRA a few days earlier. He was later caught and although sentenced to 35 years in prison was released in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The blast ripped through the front of the hotel with the top floors collapsing onto those below them. The carnage killed Anthony Berry MP, Roberta Wakeham, Eric Taylor, Muriel Maclean and Jeanne Shattock. One of the iconic pictures showed Norman Tebbit being stretched out of the rubble with internal injuries later to find out that his wife had sadly been left paralysed.  

"Life must go on as usual; the conference will go on as usual" 

The Prime Minister and her husband Denis, who were preparing her keynote speech, were unharmed and escorted out of the hotel. Despite calls for Thatcher to go back to Downing Street and cancel the rest of the conference, the PM was taken to a local police training college where she prayed, collected herself and attempted to get some sleep before the next day's leaders speech. 

The conference started at 9:30am sharp and to great applause Thatcher took to the stage. To make sure delegates, unharmed but staying in the Grand Hotel could attend it was requested that Marks and Spencers open early so clothes could be provided.

"This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail." 

We now know that Thatcher had intended to use the speech to brutally attack the Labour Party and label them 'the enemy within' but events turned the speech into one of defiance against terrorism. 

Read the full speech here.

After the bombing, by her own admission, Mrs Thatcher and the Conservative Party struggled. Norman Tebbit, a key ally, was recovering other colleagues had died or were wounded. Crises hitting the government over the few months left them stumbling around and Thatcher must have feared that the IRA would make other attempts on her life.

Mrs Thatcher remained in power as Prime Minister until 1990 and after joining the House of Lords died on 8th April 2013.

Find out more here about Margaret Thatcher, view footage from the scene in 1984 and commentary by those affected above (8mins). You can also take a look at Terror Attack Brighton: Blowing up the Iron Lady

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