Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 00:20 UK

Shock at Brighton bomb recalled

Memorial service at St Paul's Parish Church in Brighton
The bombing of the Grand Hotel was a plot to kill the government

A memorial service held to mark 25 years since the bombing of Brighton's Grand Hotel has heard it recalled as a "violent assault" on UK democracy.

The Rev Professor Peter Galloway said people were shocked to see the bomb smash a "great gash" in the hotel wall.

After the service Lord Tebbit unveiled a plaque at the hotel to remember the victims of the IRA attack, which took place during the Tory party conference.

It killed five people and injured 34, including Lord Tebbit and his wife.

At St Paul's Parish Church in Brighton, the 300-strong congregation stood in silence as the names of the people who lost their lives were read out.

Prayers were also said for the victims.


Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister at the time, was unharmed in the 1984 attack, but Cabinet colleague Lord Tebbit and his wife Margaret had to be rescued from the rubble.

Mr Galloway said: "Those of us who remember 25 years ago tonight will indeed remember the culture shock when we saw that great gash in the Grand Hotel."

He also talked of the "helplessness and hopelessness that we felt at the time when we saw our nation and our democracy under such violent assault."

The church, which is near the Grand Hotel, also bears a plaque on its wall, listing the names of those who died.

We survived. Others did not. And I think that above all today, I remember those
Lord Tebbit

Members of the emergency services who took part in the rescue operation to free those trapped were also represented at the service.

Lord Tebbit attended the service with Margaret, who was paralysed by the attack, and paid tribute to those who lost their lives or were injured.

He said: "There is always something to be gained from looking at such incidents: whether it was the bravery, the common sense of those who came to our rescue; or whether it was something more.

"And I've had a life which has had its ups and its downs and its difficult moments. And I've often been sustained by the thought that there is no experience in life which is wholly bad, as long as you survive.

"We survived. Others did not. And I think that above all today, I remember those."

Bomber Patrick Magee was given eight life sentences in 1986 for the attack.

His sentence, handed down at the Old Bailey, also came with a recommendation to serve a minimum of 35 years.

Mr Justice Boreham described him as "a man of exceptional cruelty and inhumanity".

Magee has since been released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

After being freed, Magee said the attack had "made a contribution to the peace process" and he would do the same again, but also said he was sorry for the innocent people who got caught up in the blast.

He told the BBC: "I have to tell you at the time I would not have lost much sleep about Norman Tebbit. He was a hard-liner.

Confined to a wheelchair

"I do very much regret Margaret Tebbit has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. I think a lot about that."

In an interview with the BBC's Politics Show, Lord Tebbit said forgiving those who were not sorry would make a "mockery of forgiveness".

When asked if he could forgive the bombers, he said: "I could, if they repented, and truly repented, particularly the junior people like Magee, who actually planted the explosives, could show his repentance by shopping the people who were in charge of that operation."

Lord Tebbit

Frank Gardner speaks to Lord Tebbit

One of the first on the scene at the hotel was firefighter Fred Bishop, 67, who said: "My most vivid memory from the night is the shock of seeing the devastation on arrival.

"To see the damage was quite shocking - we soon realised we had a tremendous rescue operation on our hands which was going to be long, arduous and difficult.

"There was a gaping hole in front of us and we knew then people would be injured, trapped in rubble and dying."

Mr Bishop was one of those who rescued Lord Tebbit from the rubble.

"Those famous shots say it all. He was in terrible pain, he managed to get hold of my hand and wouldn't let it go. It was a case of clearing debris away bit by bit, including the remaining springs and bedding.

"He was concerned about [his wife] Margaret and I told him she had been recovered."

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