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IRA bomb survivor shares emotional response to Manchester attack

A man who survived the IRA bombing in Manchester 21 years ago spoke yesterday of his horror at Monday’s attack in the city.

Although no one was killed in the 1996 blast, the trauma of that event still haunts Perry Hughes and his family, who now have a business in Gibraltar.

Yesterday he was filled with empathy for survivors of the attack on the pop concert in the Manchester Arena.

“They will think about it every day for the rest of their life,” he said.

But Mr Hughes was also adamant that life must go on, adding: “It’s sad to think this is not the last time something like this will happen, but we cannot live our lives worrying.”

Mr Hughes had been in Manchester when the IRA detonated the biggest bomb in the UK since World War II.

He had been standing with his wife Lisa, his daughter Heidi, 11, and eight-month-old Sam just yards away from the infamous pillar-box that withstood the blast.

A photograph of Sam in the arms of a security guard became one of the most iconic images of that day.

Visibly shocked and upset at the latest developments, Mr Hughes sat in the Chronicle offices yesterday and revealed that Sam had woken him up to tell him the news of Monday’s explosion.
They both went downstairs to watch the story unfold on the TV.

“We hugged and felt for the families,” said Mr Hughes.

“At least we are alive and here, but some are not.”

“Twenty thousand odd people had gone to an innocent concert and you always think it could never happen to me. Now 21,000 people know it can,” he added.

Mr Hughes’ youngest daughter Mollie, who had not yet been born at the time of the IRA explosion, had thought about attending Monday night’s concert.

“Mollie said she fancied going to that concert, but she ended up moving this weekend instead,” said her father.

His wife Lisa is in the UK helping Mollie with the move. Instead of packing, they spent Monday morning watching the news.

Reflecting on his family’s experience 21 years ago, Mr Hughes urged those who were caught up in Monday’s horrific events to share their emotions and thoughts.

He said that his own family had at times bottled up their feelings after the IRA bombing, in part for fear of upsetting one another, but that beneath the appearance of strength lay deep pain and anxiety.

“You know, families will go through talking about it for a few days and then not talking about it, so as not to upset each other,” he said.

“They shouldn’t do that. They should talk about it.”

Photo: Perry Hughes and family

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