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Birmingham pub bombings: ‘Men responsible’ named by IRA bomber

Pub bombing aftermathImage copyright Birmingham Inquests
Image caption Witness O named the men during the inquests into the deaths of the 21 victims

A convicted IRA bomber has named in court four men he says were responsible for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.

He named the men as Seamus McLoughlin, Mick Murray, Michael Hayes and James Gavin at the inquests into the deaths of the 21 victims.

Known as Witness O, he said he had been given permission to do so by the current head of the IRA in Dublin.

The witness was part of an active service unit in the city, but was in prison at the time of the bombings.

In court, speaking via video link, he accepted that the bombings were an “atrocity”.

The witness named the officer commanding the Birmingham IRA at the time as Seamus McLoughlin, and said he was the person responsible for selecting the targets.

He added that Mick Murray was “one of the bombers” and claimed he recalled how Murray told him there would be “no harm” if similar bombings had been repeated, because of the “chaos” caused.

When pressed by a lawyer for the bereaved families, he said Michael Hayes and James Gavin were also part of the team.

All four men have been previously named in connection with the bombings, but not in a formal setting.

Image caption The Birmingham pub bombings killed these 21 people in November 1974

In July 2017, Michael Hayes gave an interview to BBC News NI in which he said he was part of the group responsible for the Birmingham pub bombings. He said he was sorry innocent people had been killed.

He refused to say who planted the bombs in the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs, but said he was speaking out to give “the point of view of a participant”.

Mr Leslie Thomas QC then asked about whether Michael Patrick Reilly had been involved.

The witness said: “No, I don’t remember him at all. Reilly? I would remember that.”

Mr Reilly has always denied any involvement in the bombings.

Previously, the inquests heard that the bombings were “an IRA operation that went badly wrong”.

The bombs killed 21 and injured 220 at two pubs on 21 November 1974.

Former IRA intelligence chief Kieran Conway had previously said that the attacks were “not sanctioned” by the IRA and were “accidental deaths”.

Image caption A bomb went off at the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham

The blasts hit the Mulberry Bush in the base of the city’s Rotunda and the Tavern in the Town in nearby New Street.

Witness O said he believed the police had been given a warning that would have given adequate time to evacuate the two busy pubs.

The inquests were not supposed to address the issue of the identities of the bombers.

But after being told that relatives had been in “pain and suffering for the last 44 years”, the former bomber agreed to name them.

He added that he would do so even though it could put his own life at risk from new dissident groups.

The inquests continue.

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