Confidential publisher Mark Garner pays personal tribute to Town Hall
It’s the month following the Manchester Arena bombing and it’s been a strange one in Manchester.
Over the years I have seen many acts that have saddened and infuriated me. Several times in my life I have been so angry that I haven’t been able to function properly for days.
Sometimes, these acts have been uncomfortably close: The IRA bombed the restaurant Scotts of Mayfair one Wednesday, back in 1975. Just chucked a bomb through the window. My father and I were supposed to dine there that week.
Those responsible were called the ‘Balcombe Street Gang’ - they were behind a wave of bombings in which twenty civilians died and over 200 were ‘hurt’. I find it difficult to use the word hurt, when many had arms and legs blown off; nails tearing through stomach cavities, ripping away faces, smashing bones.
Some years later, I lived in Knightsbridge and parked my car across the road in Hyde Park. I was in the bookies before collecting the car for a drive back up to Manchester.
An explosion. It was close but on the other side of The Mayfair hotel. A man sat in a car a fair distance away, waiting for the ceremonial Blues & Royals on their magnificent horses. As they approached the vehicle - packed with explosives and nails - he pushed the button: four soldiers died, whilst many civilians were ‘hurt’.
I’ll never forget the seven horses lying on the ground. What the fuck had they done wrong?
It seems the IRA has followed me around over the years. Even one of the pubs they bombed in Birmingham had a strange connection for me; I sometimes used it to pay salespeople on a Friday nights, when they had a late finish.
Years later, upon their early release, Gerry Adams welcomed the Balcombe Street Gang home to a ten-minute ovation, describing them as their (The IRA) 'Nelson Mandelas'. Martin McGuinness was there. Alongside Adams, he became an MP.
He was a murderer.
I quite like Jesus and his teachings. I try and forgive, to understand. But to paraphrase Bob Dylan, Mr. McGuinness, one day I'll stand over your grave to make sure you're dead.
In the meantime, today we have our own lost innocents here in Manchester. Young girls specifically targeted again by weak and stupid people who have been groomed by the Adams and McGuinesses of militant Islam to believe that there is a God so cruel he wants to see the blood of innocents spilled indiscriminately.
Children - they hadn’t even had the time to do anything wrong.
The arena bombing is abhorred by our community. We are all the sons and the daughters of the universe. We should work together. We should stand together.
We need to say thanks, indeed we have, to the many members of the various services who acted commendably on that night and the many days following.
But I feel there is one more set of thanks to be added. I feel I have to personally pay tribute to Manchester’s Labour leadership who, unlike other councils in our country, have shown how they should behave after such a calamitous tragedy.
My position in media has allowed me to watch events unfold from the sidelines. The aftermath was softened meaningfully by the superb professionalism of our Town Hall staffers and politicians, led by the wily and intelligent Sir Richard Leese. When push came to shove, he - along with the rest of the team in Town Hall - showed true leadership, organisation, great judgement and a deep understanding of what he and his team had to do.
Richard, I’m going to buy you that pint. Manchester is lucky to have you.
Mind you, I’m still going to needle you about the parking…
Mark Garner, Publisher, The Confidentials.