How soon we forget and cover-up
15 June 1996: a sunny morning in Manchester. Saturday shoppers were filling Market Street and the Arndale Centre buying Father's Day presents. The country was hosting Euro '96 and the nation was gripped with football fever.
Then, at 09:43, came the first warning. It was coded message: 'You've got one hour to clear the city centre.' The IRA had packed 3,000 lbs of explosives into a lorry parked on Corporation Street.
When the bomb went off, it exploded at 2,000 feet per second. The sheer power of the blast shattered the city centre around Marks and Spencer and the Arndale shopping centre.
Thanks to a massive operation to evacuate the city centre, no-one was killed although, 200 people were injured, some seriously, mostly by flying glass and debris.
Professor Richard English of Queen's University in Belfast has studied the activities of the IRA for a number of years and wrote the book 'Armed Struggle - The History Of The IRA.'
He says it's known who carried out the attack and spoke to Inside Out's Andy Johnson:
"One of the strange things about many incidents in the Northern Ireland troubles has been that while informally, quite a lot of people know who is responsible for certain actions, in a formal sense, convictions have not been pursued. That is the same with the Manchester bomb of 1996.
"Broadly speaking, itís known which unit of the IRA produced this bomb. Some of the names of those involved are known, but they have not been brought to justice. There are two explanations which people have offered for that: one is that the kind of acquisition of informal evidence that you can pursue as a journalist, or as a commentator is one thing, but getting people to tell you on the record the kind of things theyíll tell you off the record is different for obvious reasons in a place like Northern Ireland.
"The other explanation, I think is slightly more complicated, and itís this. During the peace process period the British government and the British authorities were keen, above all that the IRA shift from something like war to something like peace. In the process of doing that, getting into a second ceasefire from í97 onwards, with Sinn Fein, the politicians becoming more important than the IRA, there was a desire not to rock the boat.
So it's all about keeping the peace process on track...
"Prisoners were released after the Good Friday agreement, people who had often done murderous and appalling things. There was a sense that you could almost forget the past atrocities if the future was going to see Republicans be political, rather than being violent. Thatís not to say people wouldnít want to pursue a conviction, but for example, under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, if the people who had carried out this bombing were prosecuted then they would be eligible for release fairly quickly anyway. In other words, thereís a sense that thereís something like an amnesty for IRA actions has informally been accepted in Northern Ireland. In that context, thereís no real urgency to try and reach prosecutions for things like this, to reach convictions, because itís almost as if youíve put a line through what happened in the past in order to reach hopefully a more peaceful present."
Greater Manchester Police has conducted a review of the investigation into bombing of Manchester city centre in 1996.
Deputy Chief Constable Dave Whatton said: "The Manchester bomb had a tremendous impact on the lives of people in the area, which is why we have thoroughly reviewed the case. A team of officers from GMP's Anti-Terrorist Unit carried out a detailed analysis ahead of the 10th anniversary of the incident.
"In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, we have concluded that at this time there is no realistic possibility of a prosecution. This has allowed us to release new material that we have held for the last 10 years.
"Any speculation about individuals alleged to be linked to the incident is unhelpful as there is insufficient evidence to substantiate charges.
(You may want to compare the photo to ones taken from Canal and Church Street in New York five years later - and the subsequent reactions... )