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Brighton hotel bombing

The Brighton hotel bombing was the bombing by the Provisional IRA of the Grand Hotel in Brighton in the early morning of October 12, 1984. The Irish republican terrorist organisation detonated two large bombs in the hotel where many politicians, including Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, were staying for the British Conservative party conference.

The bombs failed to kill Thatcher or any of her government ministers, but did kill five people including Tory MP Sir Anthony Berry and John Wakeham's wife Roberta. The wife of the President of the Board of Trade Norman Tebbit, Margaret, was left crippled. The bomb went off at 2.54am. Thatcher was still awake at the time, said to be working on her conference speech. The bomb shredded through her bathroom barely two minutes after she had left it; but she and her husband escaped injury.

The IRA claimed responsibility the next day, and said that they would try again. Their statement famously included the words

Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.

Thatcher began the next session of the conference at 9.30am the following morning as scheduled, despite the number of dead and wounded still being unknown at that time.

The attack failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail,

she said to those attending the conference.

In September 1986, Patrick Magee (also known as the "Brighton bomber"), then aged 35, was found guilty of planting the bomb, exploding it, and five counts of murder. Magee had stayed in the hotel under the false name of Roy Walsh three weeks prior to the conference and planted the bomb, with a long-delay timer, in his room, number 629. Sir Donald Maclean was staying in the room with his wife, Muriel, when the bomb was set off. She was killed in the explosion and Sir Donald seriously injured. The other victims killed by the blast were Eric Taylor and Jean Shattock. 34 people were hospitalized but recovered from their injuries. Magee received eight life sentences: seven for offences relating to the Brighton bombing, and the eighth for a separate bombing conspiracy. The judge recommended he serve a mininum term of 35 years. Later Home Secretary Michael Howard increased this minimum to "whole life". However, he was released from prison in 1999, having served only 14 years in prison (including the time before his sentencing), under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. A Downing Street spokesperson said that his release "was hard to stomach" and an appeal by then Home Secretary Jack Straw to prevent it was turned down by the Northern Irish High Court.

Following his release Magee was reported to have said "I stand by what I did," inflaming the anger of survivors and the bereaved towards him. Whilst he admitted partial responsibility for planning the attack, he maintains that the fingerprint evidence found on a registration card recovered from the hotel was faked - "If that was my fingerprint I did not put it there," he said in a newspaper interview after his release.


Last updated: 11-06-2004 21:00:35