The families of those killed in the IRA's 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have been told they will not receive funding for their legal expenses from the British government.

The relatives, campaigning as the group Justice4the21, met British Home Secretary Amber Rudd in recent weeks to discuss an application to fund their legal team during the costly process of the inquest.

The Birmingham and Solihull coroner ruled in June of this year that the inquest into the deaths of 21 people at two pubs in Birmingham should be reopened.

The relatives, who had campaigned to resume the inquest, had cited the case of the Hillsborough families, whose legal costs were funded during the recent inquest into that 1989 disaster.

In a statement, Justice4the21 said that Ms Rudd had expressed both her sympathy and support for the relatives of the victims of the IRA atrocity.

Ms Rudd has also pledged her support for an application which the group has made for legal aid to fund its continuing legal representation.  

The group has said in recent weeks that if no financial support is forthcoming it would not be able to take part in the inquest which is expected to fully begin in the New Year.

So far, the group's solicitors, KRW Law in Belfast, have been acting free of charge. However the solicitors say "this is no longer sustainable".

Justice4the21 says it is now hoping it will have confirmation of whether or not it will receive legal aid as soon as possible since the first formal pre-inquest hearing begins in November.

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Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed in the bombings, said that families who lost loved ones are very disappointed that they will not receive the same funding as relatives of the Hillsborough disaster.

Speaking on RTÉ's News At One, Ms Hambleton said that families are cautiously optimistic they may receive legal aid through the Legal Aid Agency.

"People have been in contact with me today, making statements along the lines of 'so basically they are saying the lives of our loved ones are worth less than those of the lives in Hillsborough', and people can see it like that. However, she (Ms Rudd) did say that we have her whole support for us to have legal funding, via the Legal Aid Agency. So, in one sense, we are disappointed; in another, we are cautiously optimistic."

She added that Ms Rudd is sympathetic towards their plight and fully supports their application for legal funding.

She said families would like the LAA to sign off on the families' legal team to receive funding to participate, or for the families to participate, in the forthcoming inquest.

Ms Hambleton said that families would then be in a position to ask questions of witnesses through their legal team.