On Saturday 15, June 1996, at a peak shopping time the day before Father’s Day, a 3,000 pound IRA bomb exploded in Manchester, injuring more than 200 people and ripping into the fabric of the city’s main shopping centre.

In a state of shocked disbelief, police had begun clearing people from the area some 40 minutes before the blast; fortunately, several telephoned warnings had been issued to newspapers, radio stations and to at least one hospital in Manchester an hour before the blast. Newspaper offices in Dublin and Belfast received similar warnings.

The day after the Manchester bombingAndrew's Postbox pictureThe completely restored bomb site in Manchester
Shambles SquareDefiant Manchester rebuilds after the BombingThe Rebuilding of Manchester
Top Row: The devastation of Corporation
Street was virtually total; the “ground zero” post box that
survived the bombing. A brass plaque marks the event. (Photo: Andrew
Theokas). Bottom Row: The new Shambles Square; Manchester defies the
bombers and rebuilds itself; by 1998 rebuilding was well under way

An army bomb squad
employed a robotic anti-bomb device to check an illegally parked Ford
van, which had been recorded by several closed circuit security cameras
in the city, when the bomb exploded.
ambulance services counted 206 injured people. Most injuries were
sustained from falling glass and building debris. In the immediately
ensuing chaos, ambulances and private cars were used to shuttle victims
to local and regional hospitals. Local
authorities had to close Victoria and Piccadilly railway stations
for several hours and to seal off the city centre. The evacuation
of shoppers immediately took place from the Marks & Spencer’s department
store, which was directly at the centre of the site, outside which
the lorry-bomb was parked.
the evacuated staff and shoppers stood outside, right next to the
bomb, but when the emergency services realised this they shunted them
to the nearby Victoria Station.
Why Manchester
city centre was targeted by the IRA is uncertain, but it later became
clear that the cause probably lay in the breakdown of the IRA “ceasefire”
in the light of lack of progress with the British Government’s ongoing
talks about a permanent peace settlement in Northern Ireland.
It was estimated
that up to 50,000 square metres of retail space and nearly 25,000
square metres of office space have subsequently needed to be reconstructed.
Whilst much
of the city centre has now reopened, the immediate area surrounding
the blast site, including parts of the Arndale Centre, the Corn Exchange,
the Royal Exchange, Royal Insurance’s Longridge House and Marks and
Spencer’s remain cordoned off and a considerable amount of demolition
has had to take place.
Marks &
Spencer’s store, alas, was totally demolished, and the Royal Insurance
Building is no more, as are several shops in the immediate vicinity.
government quickly set aside �1million of European Union finance and
set in place a master plan for the redevelopment of the City Centre.
They have also provided �150,000 to support an international urban
design competition, which was launched just one month after the bombing,
and which provided a cohesive plan for rebuilding.
The reconstruction
has been overseen by the new City Centre Task Force, Millennium Manchester
Organisation. The government allocated a further �20 million to Manchester
from the European Union regional aid budget for 1997-99.
Four years
later, and the whole area of the devastation zone is now completely
restored. The
Royal Exchange has been renovated, the Corn Exchange has been reborn
as the Triangle, and the whole north side of the Arndale Centre has
been rebuilt.
Square including the Old Wellington Inn and Sinclair’s Oyster Bar
– the two oldest buildings in the city of Manchester – have been physically
moved some 100 yards to a new Shambles Square location off Exchange
Square and opposite Marks and Spencer.
Marks and Spencer have rebuilt completely on the original site, the
largest M&S store in the world.