On This Day — The Brighton Bombing (October 12 1984) [UPDATE — Brighton Bomber : “Ireland will soon be reunited.”]

“Mrs. Thatcher will now realise that Britain cannot occupy our country and torture our prisoners and shoot our people in their own streets and get away with it. Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always. Give Ireland peace and there will be no more war.”

IRA Statement (October 13 1984)

Margaret Thatcher and husband Denis leave the Grand Hotel following the bombing.

On October 12 1984, Patrick Magee made an audacious attempt to kill Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet by exploding a bomb at the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference. The Prime Minister was unharmed but five people were killed in the attack and many more injured. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

RELATED POST: On This Day — Lord Louis Mountbatten Killed by IRA (August 27 1979)

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One Year Ago — Bad Science & Bad Scientists : IRA suspect Issues Apology for the Birmingham Pub Bombings

20 Years Ago — The Good Friday Agreement (April 10 1998)

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“The only sorrow of the Brighton bombing is that Thatcher escaped unscathed.”

Steven Patrick Morrissey — English singer, songwriter and author

UPDATE (March 16 2021) — Patrick Magee just revealed that he had scouted the Brighton conference centre 7 years prior to the infamous October 1984 bombing that almost killed Margaret Thatcher.

Magee expressed regret for the deaths and suffering he inflicted but defended the Brighton bomb, and the wider IRA campaign, as part of a strategy that led to negotiations and eventual peace.

Magee also makes an amazing prediction: Brexit may help deliver what the IRA did not, namely a united Ireland.

“Britain itself looks like it can’t survive as a political formation. I think it [a united Ireland] is a natural outcome. If you’re going to reunite the country it’s got to be done properly, thought through, argued, so everybody is sure that it’s established constitutionally.”

Most people will probably dismiss this prediction as plain nonsense. Intel Today believes that it is entirely plausible and even likely.

Why? Just ask yourself how you can reconcile international law and the consequences of Brexit?

It is simply not possible to abide by European laws and respect the terms of the Good Friday agreement. One solution would be to reunite Ireland. Do you know another one?

 However, the final decision on a Border poll rests with the British secretary of state.

The secretary of state may by order direct the holding of a poll for the purposes of section 1 on a date specified in the order . . . [and] . . . shall exercise the power . . . if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” [1998 Belfast Agreement ]

One problem is that the 1998 Agreement does not define “likely” and vagueness is always a two-edged sword. In any case, the time for such a referendum is certainly not now.

“The last time to have that poll is now,” said former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who played a key role in the 1998 peace agreement. 

“Trying to throw a border poll or a united Ireland into this agenda would be dynamite. My personal view is that it will be toward the end of the decade.” 

This does not mean that someone may not be tempted to use the current COVID crisis and the European vaccination fiasco to rush such a referendum…

END of UPDATE

“Magee is a delightful guy. Now that does not excuse what he did and I do not condone what he did. It was 100% wrong, it was killing, it was violence.”

Harvey Thomas — Tory who organised the 1984 Brighton conference and almost died in the bombing.

The IRA carried out its most audacious attack on this day in 1984 – bombing the Grand Hotel in Brighton in an attempt to wipe out Margaret Thatcher and her government.

The IRA hatched its plan to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – who they blamed for the death of hunger strikers including Bobby Sands – in 1983. The terrorist group chose the following year’s Conservative party conference in Brighton and the town’s Grand Hotel, as the location – and chose explosives officer Patrick Magee as the man to plant the bomb.

The plan was to use a bomb with a very long delay – and so three weeks before the conference, Magee and a female accomplice checked into the Grand Hotel for four nights under a false name. They stayed in room 629 – five floors above the hotel’s VIP suites – and Magee planted the 20lb gelignite bomb (which used a timer from a VCR) behind the bath panel in the bathroom. He programmed the device to detonate 24 days later, at 02:53am on the last night of the Conservative party conference.

The Tory party conference was a great success – and on the final night, Thatcher stayed up past midnight in her first-floor VIP suite, working on the speech she would be giving to the conference the following day.

The bomb exploded at its planned time, when most of the hotel’s 318 guests were asleep in bed. Thatcher, however, had still been up in her sitting room, working with her private secretary, just moments before. “Both she and I knew immediately that it was a bomb,” he later said.

The explosion ripped through the top floors of the hotel, creating a huge hole in its front and causing a chimney stack to collapse and crash through the centre of the building. It missed Thatcher’s living room by inches, but hit her bathroom and bedroom, where her husband Dennis was sleeping.

Many guests and delegates – including cabinet minister Norman Tebbit and his wife Margaret – were trapped by falling masonry and rubble as the rooms collapsed in the centre of the hotel. There were chaotic scenes as wounded survivors made their way out, covered in dust – but fire officers were at the scene by 3am. Margaret and Denis Thatcher were rushed out of the rear of the hotel and taken by car to Brighton police station.

It wasn’t until the following morning that it became clear that several people had died in the explosion and more than 30 had been severely injured – including Tebbit and his wife.

Margaret Thatcher insisted that the conference would continue as scheduled that day – and as she made her way to the conference centre, the IRA issued a statement taking responsibility for the bomb. “Today, we were unlucky. But remember, we only have to be lucky once; you will have to be lucky always,” it warned. “Give Ireland peace and there will be no war.”

The Prime Minister went against police wishes and entered the conference centre by its front entrance in full glare of the media and gave a redrafted speech to the conference. “The fact that we are gathered here now – shocked, but composed, and determined – is a sign that not only this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail,” she said, defiantly.

Patrick Magee

Five people were killed and 34 were injured in the Brighton bomb blast. Those who died included Sir Anthony Berry MP and Roberta Wakeham, wife of Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham. Norman Tebbit’s wife Margaret was left severely and permanently paralysed.

Once police had discovered that the bomb had been planted in room 629, they traced every guest who had stayed there. Three months after the explosion, they found Patrick Magee’s fingerprints on his registration card for the hotel room.

Magee was arrested, found guilty, and given 8 life sentences; the judge recommended he served a minimum of 35 years. Four other members of the IRA were also jailed for their involvement in the plot.

The hotel was re-opened on August 28, 1986 and the re-inauguration was attended by both Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit.

Patrick Magee served 14 years of his prison sentence. He was released in 1999, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2000, Magee met with Jo Berry, the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry, who was killed in the blast. Berry had decided to dedicate her life to conflict resolution, and Magee is now also actively involved in peace work. The pair now often travel and work together under the banner of Berry’s charity Building Bridges for Peace.

Thatcher Assassination Attempt – 1984 | Today In History | 12 Oct 17

REFERENCES

Brighton hotel bombing — Wikipedia

October 12, 1984: Five die as Brighton bomb blast rocks Conservative party conference — BT

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On This Day — The Brighton Bombing (October 12 1984)

On This Day — The Brighton Bombing (October 12 1984) [UPDATE — Brighton Bomber : “Ireland will soon be reunited.”]

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