The Bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton

Patrick Magee
BBC News
Feelings are still very raw today
In 1984 the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Tory party conference
Sunday Times
Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher
Seven IRA members who were killed in the conflict.
Martin Melaugh
Members of the IRA's 3rd Battalion and other members of the Republican Movement from the area killed in the conflict.
Martin Melaugh
MP's personal belongings laid out in the gymnasium at John Street Police Station. Sergeant Ian wilson was in charge of the property and is in the picture
David Rowland

2.53 am October 1984

This was the most ambitious operation ever planned against the British and the biggest the IRA had ever carried out.
It was the first attempt to wipe out the government since the Gunpowder plot in 1605.
Margaret Thatcher aroused strong feelings and inflamed passions. Her assassination would inevitably precipitate an enormous reaction.

The Background

After the death of Bobby Sands in 1981 Mrs Thatcher became the IRA’s most hated enemy. It became personal. She became a hate figure for the republican movement not seen since Cromwell. As more hunger strikers died she was held directly responsible and the IRA sought revenge.

The Man

Patrick Magee, an explosives officer in the IRA, was born in Belfast but spent most of his childhood in Norwich. At the age of 19 he returned to Belfast and joined the IRA.

The Decision

The desire to murder Thatcher was immense, however, the backlash could be devastating and ultimately counter productive. Yet they had the men, the arms and the opportunity. How could they not take advantage of it? They had very little choice. After all, who would be prepared to go down in Irish history as the man who refused to allow the assassination of Margaret Thatcher when it was perfectly feasible?

The Project to Kill Thatcher

Mrs Thatcher could only be guaranteed to be in two places, Finchley Town Hall on election night and the Grand Hotel for the party conference week. Conference week was the obvious choice and Patrick Magee was chosen to plant the bomb.

The Bomb

Three weeks before the start of the party conference Magee, under the name of Roy Walsh, accompanied by a woman posed as a couple on false passports. They booked into room 629 well above the VIP suites, for four nights.
Magee planted the bomb behind the bath panel. It was a simple device with a timer taken from a video recorder. All Magee had to do was place the small box in position, connect the two wires and pull out a small wooden knob. 20-30lbs of explosive were attached to the timer and set to go off in 24 days, 6 hours and 36 minutes later on October 12th at 2.53 am during the Tory party conference.

The Explosion

Mrs Thatcher was working on her speech with an aide. Dennis was asleep in the bedroom. The bomb went off on time and brought down a chimney. This collapsed the rooms beneath down to ground level. Five people were killed but not Margaret Thatcher or any of her cabinet ministers.

The Arrest

Three months later Magee’s finger print, which was on file, was found on his registration card. He was quickly arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to eight consecutive life sentences with a recommendation to serve at least 35 years. In 1999 he was released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. He served only 13 years.

‘The awareness that it could have been worse actually gave the IRA more leverage than if they had killed Mrs Thatcher.’

‘In fact, if half of the British Government had been killed it might have been impossible for a generation for the British establishment to come to terms with us.’

Patrick Magee

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