Today marks the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fires, and we join with the nation in remembering the victims and survivors of that tragedy. However, this week also marks the 25th anniversary of the Provisional IRA bomb attack on Manchester City Centre in 1996. Miraculously nobody was killed in that attack but:
- Over 200 people required hospital treatment;
- 1200 buildings were damaged;
- Over 600 businesses were displaced; and
- 50 000 square metres of retail space was rendered unusable (and a similar amount of office space).
The insured losses were approximately £400m; and the total cost of rebuilding the city centre was over £1b. Over the next five days, we will look back on the incident and the City’s marvellous recovery. We begin today by looking at the background to the attack…
Manchester had been an occasional target of terrorist activity throughout “The Troubles”; generally these attacks consisted of crude firebombs placed in commercial premises. The most recent major incident, prior to 1996, was in 1992: whilst Police were responding to a warning of a bomb on Parsonage, another device exploded on Cateaton Street and over 100 people were injured by flying glass.
Prior to the Provisional IRA ceasefire there had been a number of large bombs on the UK mainland, but these incidents had been concentrated on London; most notably the Baltic Exchange bomb in 1992 and Bishopsgate bomb in 1993. The focus on attacking London continued when the ceasefire was broken on 9th February 1996, with a bomb near South Quays Station which killed two people. It is unclear why Manchester was chosen as the target in June, although the increasing use of CCTV and other security measures in the capital were undoubtedly making it a more difficult target to attack.