Brighton hotel bombing: Wikis


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Brighton hotel bombing

The Grand Hotel after the bombing
Location Brighton, England
Coordinates 50°49′17″N 0°08′50″W / 50.82139°N 0.14722°W / 50.82139; -0.14722Coordinates: 50°49′17″N 0°08′50″W / 50.82139°N 0.14722°W / 50.82139; -0.14722
Date 12 October 1984
02:54 (GMT)
Target Grand Hotel
Attack type time bomb
Death(s) 5
Injured 31
Perpetrator Patrick Magee (Provisional IRA)
The Grand Hotel, Brighton, 2004 (portion of the building to the left in the photograph is a new addition not yet built at the time of the attack)
The Grand Hotel at night, 2006

The Brighton hotel bombing occurred on 12 October 1984 at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England. The bomb was planted by Patrick Magee, a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). It was intended to assassinate Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, who were staying at the hotel for the Conservative Party conference.


The bombing

The bomb detonated at 2:54 a.m. Thatcher was still awake at the time, working on her conference speech for the next day in her suite. It badly damaged her bathroom but left her sitting room and bedroom unscathed. Thatcher and her husband Denis escaped injury. Thatcher changed her clothes, and then was escorted by the security guards to Brighton police station. She and her husband were then taken to Sussex Police Headquarters at Lewes, where they stayed for the rest of the night.

As she left the hotel she gave an impromptu interview to the BBC's John Cole at around 4:00 a.m., where she said the conference would go on as usual. Alistair McAlpine persuaded Marks & Spencer to open early at 8:00 a.m. so those who had lost their clothes in the bombing could get new ones. Thatcher went from the conference to visit the injured at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.


The bomb failed to kill Thatcher or any of her government ministers. Five people, however, were killed, including Conservative MP Sir Anthony Berry, and Parliamentary Treasury Secretary John Wakeham's wife Roberta. Sir Donald Maclean and his wife, Muriel, were in the room in which the bomb exploded. Lady Maclean was not killed in the explosion, but later died of her injuries, and Sir Donald was seriously injured. The other victims killed by the blast were Eric Taylor and Jeanne Shattock. Several more, including Margaret Tebbit—the wife of Norman Tebbit, who was then President of the Board of Trade—were left permanently disabled. Thirty-four people were taken to hospital but recovered from their injuries.

IRA responsibility

The IRA claimed responsibility the next day, and said that it would try again. Its statement read:

"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."[1]


Margaret Thatcher began the next session of the conference at 9:30 a.m. the following morning as scheduled. She omitted most of her planned attacks on the Labour Party from her speech and claimed the bombing was "an attempt to cripple Her Majesty's democratically elected Government":

"That is the scale of the outrage in which we have all shared, and the fact that we are gathered here now—shocked, but composed and determined—is a sign not only that this attack has failed, but that all attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail."[2]

One of her biographers wrote that Thatcher's "coolness, in the immediate aftermath of the attack and in the hours after it, won universal admiration. Her defiance was another Churchillian moment in her premiership which seemed to encapsulate both her own steely character and the British public's stoical refusal to submit to terrorism".[3] Immediately afterwards her popularity soared to near-Falklands levels.[4] On the first Saturday after the attack, Thatcher said to her constituents: "We suffered a tragedy not one of us could have thought would happen in our country. And we picked ourselves up and sorted ourselves out as all good British people do, and I thought, let us stand together for we are British! They were trying to destroy the fundamental freedom that is the birth-right of every British citizen, freedom, justice and democracy".[5]

Patrick Magee

In September 1986, Patrick Magee, then aged 35, was found guilty of planting the bomb, detonating it, and of five counts of murder. He had stayed in the hotel under the false name of Roy Walsh twenty-four days prior to the conference and planted the bomb (fitted with a long-delay timer made from video recorder components) under the bath in his room, number 629.

Magee received eight life sentences: seven for offences relating to the Brighton bombing, and the eighth for a separate bombing conspiracy. The judge recommended that he serve a minimum term of thirty-five years. Later Home Secretary Michael Howard increased this minimum to "whole life". He was released from prison, however, in 1999, having served only fourteen years (including the time before his sentencing), under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. A Downing Street spokesman 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 Ireland 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 being part of the IRA unit responsible, 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.[6]



See also

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