Pictures of IRA Canary Wharf 1996 bombing bring it all back for Midland Bank guard Ganesh
PUBLISHED: 17:21 31 March 2017 | UPDATED: 19:34 31 March 2017
The horror of the IRA bombing of Canary Wharf 21 years ago have been marked with an exhibition opening today of previously-unseen photographs taken inside the bank that was wrecked.
The images on show at a Docklands gallery close to the Midland Bank HQ that was bombed in March, 1996, were snapped by an employee who went back in the building the following day to collect his belongings.
They have brought back memories for members of the Docklands Victims Association which has been fighting for 20 years for compensation for families of those killed and injured.
“I was caught up in the blast and was buried under the rubble that you see in these pictures,” the association’s founder Jonathan Ganesh told the East London Advertiser.
“The exhibition has captured this awful event, reminding me of the nightmare that I live with every day with reoccurring flashbacks when I see images like these.”
Jonathan was a Midland Bank security guard when the bomb went off outside, killing two of his friends at a newsagent’s close by, Inam Bashir and John Jeffries, and injuring 50 other people.
He was trapped in the rubble—yet still helped others to safety, despite his injuries, and later received a bravery award.
The Semtex used in the bomb was supplied to the IRA by the Libyan dictator Gaddafi. The Docklands organisation has been campaigning for compensation from nearly £10 billion assets Gaddafi had stashed in London. But the move was blocked in Parliament earlier this month which Jonathan described as “shameful”.
He points out: “The US government secured compensation for American victims, but British and Irish citizens have been left behind. Those assets would help so many people, but the government isn’t fighting for us.”
The 30 images on show at Republic Gallery in Blackwall reminds Jonathan of that fateful day in 1996 when he had to be brought out on a stretcher from the devastation.
“There was a deathly silence and dust after the explosion and a smell of burning, like phosphorus,” he remembers. “ It’s something that will live with me for the rest of my life.”
He continues working for compensation for all IRA victims including families on Millwall’s Barkantine Estate, close to Canary Wharf, who were caught up in the blast.
Newsagent Inam Bashir’s brother Ihsan revealed: “I still miss my brother and JJ. My mother and I are so touched that our community has never forgotten them.”
Another survivor is Joyce Brown, a cleaner at the bank at the time still living today on the Barkantine Estate, who was also injured. She said: “The exhibition made me realise how lucky we all were to live.
“But I began to cry when I saw pictures of Inam and JJ. I can imagine as a mother the pain their families went through.”
The exhibition project is a partnership between artist Lucy Harrison and King’s College London’s Dr George Legg, who wrote a Phd on the IRA in Ireland and is now looking at its impact on London.
Lucy said: “Most of those caught up in the bomb that day were not the well-paid city workers, but newsagents and bank staff such as cleaners. Their families were left to deal with the aftermath and are still campaigning for adequate compensation.
“We realised through our interviews with them the impact the bombing in 1996 has had, even 21 years later.”
The 3,000lb bomb packed into a lorry parked outside the bank destroyed several buildings and left a 32ft crater close to South Quay DLR station. It marked the end of a 17-month IRA ‘ceasefire’.
The exhibition also examines how architects and planners responded to the damage and looks at changes to Docklands resulting from the bomb.