Remembering the IRA bombing campaign

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On June 30, it will be 24 years since the IRA attempted to blow up the Navy and RAF recruitment office in Preston city centre.

Thankfully nobody was injured during that terrorist act, although some damage was caused when a controlled explosion was required to disarm the device.

That attack on Preston was a relatively minor event in a concerted, violent and cowardly campaign conducted by the IRA, targeting a wide array of UK towns and cities over many years. Blackpool was targeted just six months later when the IRA planted a large number of incendiary devices in various shops and businesses.

The reason I was reminded about this bombing campaign was because I took my 20-year-old daughter on a shopping trip to Manchester last week. Whilst we were having a coffee, she was singing the praises of Manchester city centre and I happened to comment that many of the developments in the area that we were in were down to the IRA bomb of June 1996.

Perhaps unsurprisingly she knew absolutely nothing about it and I went on to explain that it was the largest bomb detonated by the IRA in the UK, injuring 200 people and causing hundreds of millions of pounds worth of damage.

At first I think she thought I was exaggerating but quickly came to realise I wasn’t. It struck me that a whole generation has now grown up wholly unaccustomed to the regular terrorist atrocities that were committed throughout the UK by IRA terrorists, during the 70s, 80s and 90s. Even I had completely forgotten that there was a time when it was necessary for UK police officers to check under their vehicles before using them and the hours that were spent evacuating town centres because of alleged coded bomb warnings.

The Irish peace process has been a great success, but unfortunately the threat still remains relatively high for those who work in the security services of Northern Ireland. It is thought highly unlikely that Irish terrorists would ever resume a mainland campaign and reconciliation should quite rightly be the main focus.

However, I think it’s important we don’t completely erase it from history and whilst we should be thankful that the atrocities have ended, we should also be mindful that some people are still dealing, on a daily basis, with the impact of those terrorist acts of 20 years ago.