Four terrorists who carried out the Birmingham bombings in 1974 have been named in court today, with the apparent blessing of the IRA.
Inquests are currently being held into the deaths of twenty-one people who were killed in two explosions at the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs in November 1974, explosions which also injured 220.
An ex-IRA member gave bombshell evidence to the hearings today, in which he named four of those behind the attacks and gave the nicknames of two others.
The former volunteer, named in court only as ‘Witness O’, said Seamus McLoughlan was commander of the Birmingham IRA at the time and selected the targets.
He said Mick Murray and Michael Hayes were part of the bombing team and another man, James Gavin, was also involved.
Witness O said that he had been given permission to name the men by the current head of the IRA in Dublin.
Michael Hayes has been named as one of four IRA terrorists behind the 1974 Birmingham bombing at the inquests today. He is the only one of the four still alive. He apologised for his role on TV last year but is reportedly protected by the Good Friday Agreement
A convicted IRA bomber, who was not identified, told the inquests into the victims’ deaths that Mick Murray (left) and James Gavin (right) were also involved
The men allegedly behind the bombings were named at inquests into the deaths today. Pictured: A body is carried from the Mulberry Bush
Two years ago, Michael Hayes issued a public apology for the bombings, saying he was part of the group responsible, but declined to say if he planted the bombs.
Witness O’s testimony today suggests Hayes, who is thought to live in Dublin, was promised he would not be pursued under the Good Friday Agreement.
Witness O said: ‘He can’t be arrested. There is nobody going to be charged with this atrocity. The British Government have signed an agreement with the IRA.’
Murray and McLoughlin have since died, with McLoughlin given full paramilitary-style ‘honours’ at his funeral.
Gavin has previously been linked to the bombings. He died in 2002.
Witness O was accused of protecting another man previously linked to the bombings, Michael Patrick Reilly, who is also still alive.
When asked about him by the victims’ families’ QC, Lesley Thomas, Witness O replied: ‘No, I don’t remember him at all. Reilly? I would remember that.’
The barrister then told him Mr Reilly was known as ‘The Young Planter’.
Mr Thomas said: ‘You know who he is, don’t you? He’s the one you’re protecting, isn’t he?’
The witness replied: ‘Who? Protecting who? No.’
Witness O also claimed he had given McLoughlan’s name to two police detectives while in HMP Winson Green just days after the bombings, but heard nothing more.
He added that two other men, who he identified as ‘Dublin Dave’ and ‘Socks’ had also been involved, but that he did not know either man’s name.
Witness O, who was in jail at the time of the bomb attacks, described the bombings as ‘an atrocity’.
Yesterday, former IRA intelligence boss Kieran Conway, asserted that the attacks were the work of an autonomous cell of volunteers, done without the authority of leaders in Ireland.
He insisted that the pubs were not legitimate targets because they were not frequented by soldiers. And warnings designed to give police a chance to clear the buildings failed because phone boxes had been vandalised.
The blasts at the Mulberry Bush (shown) in the base of the city’s iconic Rotunda and the basement Tavern in the Town killed 21 people and injured 220 more
Firemen at work following the bomb attacks in Birmingham city centre that targeted the Mulberry Bush pub and the Tavern in the Town
Astonishingly, Conway also claimed that the deaths were not murders, arguing that the victims were killed ‘accidentally’ during a war against the British state.
He said that in the aftermath of the blasts, an ‘OC’ – officer commanding – and his second-in-com-mand were hauled before a so-called IRA court which cleared them after hearing of the problems with the phones. They could have been expelled or even executed, he said.
Conway said yesterday: ‘The bombings had been careless, if not downright incompetent.’
Asked if the victims had been murdered, he declared: ‘It was an IRA operation that went tragically wrong. It should not have happened.
It was outside the range of permissible targets but in my opinion it was not murder.’ In 1975, six men – the Birmingham Six – were convicted over the blasts but acquitted 16 years later.
The attacks remain Britain’s largest unsolved terror crime. The families of the victims have waited 44 years for new inquests, which finally began last month.
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