Birmingham pub bomber issues apology

A self-confessed IRA bomb maker who was one of two men named in a landmark Granada TV programme in 1990 as one of those responsible for the Birmingham Pub bombings has issued an apology.

In a wide ranging interview with the BBC, Michael Christopher Hayes said he was sorry innocent people were killed.

Some 21 people killed when bombs exploded in two Birmingham pubs on November 21, 1974.

In the BBC interview, 69-year-old Mr Hayes, dressed in combat fatigues, again refused to say who planted the bombs but said he was speaking out to give “the point of view of a participant”. Mr Hayes now lives in Dublin.

He repeatedly refused to comment on who planted the bombs or elaborate on his own role but said he was taking “collective responsibility” for all the IRA’s actions in England adding that he was “a participant in the IRA’s activities in Birmingham”.

“It was not the intention of the IRA to kill innocent people,” he said. “That wasn’t meant. It wouldn’t have been done if that was the case.

“We were horrified when we heard, because it was not intended. I personally defused the third bomb.”

The former IRA volunteer then said he was sorry for the hurt caused.

Mr Hayes said he would not be attending any inquest into the bombings.

“I would not go along to it,” he said. “Why should I? What reason would I have to go there? I am just kind of giving this interview.

“That is sufficient. I’m not going back to England.”

Concluding, Mr Hayes told the BBC he had a clear conscience.

“Very much so,” he said. “I can sleep at night. Because I am not a murderer.”

The naming of possible suspects at fresh inquests into the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings was ruled out by a coroner last week.

Peter Thornton said the issue of perpetrators should not be included as he published his written ruling on the scope of the hearings, due to begin later this year.

Birmingham pub bomber issues apology

Bereaved relatives of some of the 21 victims had made strident calls for the widest possible scope in their bid for “truth and justice” ahead of Wednesday’s ruling.

Julie Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine died in the double bombings, had said “we may as well not bother having an inquest” if the issue of suspects could not be examined.

In a 15-page ruling, Mr Thornton, the former chief coroner, said: “To permit the identity of perpetrators to be within scope would be seen to be taking on the role of a proxy criminal trial.

“If this were to result in a determination identifying those responsible for the attacks that would, in my judgment, be unlawful.”

A victim of the Birmingham bombing in 1974. Some 21 people were killed when bombs exploded in two Birmingham pubs. Picture: PA
A victim of the Birmingham bombing in 1974. Some 21 people were killed when bombs exploded in two Birmingham pubs. Picture: PA

He added, given the “sheer size and complexity” of any investigation into who may have carried out the attacks, it was not the role of the inquest.

The judge added it would “be invidious for the inquests to attempt to do”, what various criminal and case reviews investigations had tried and failed to do over the past 43 years.

He said: “The approach would inevitably be piecemeal and incomplete, mostly reliant upon persons named in books and the press, mostly by journalists.”

Mr Thornton added that any investigation into the perpetrators was “a task entirely unsuited to the inquest process”, given its “limited resources”.

Birmingham pub bomber issues apology

He also ruled out the reactions of the emergency services on the night of the bombings, forming any part of the evidence, despite the relatives’ asking it be included.

However, Mr Thornton said evidence could be heard on the issue that police may have been tipped off twice about the possibility of a bomb attack, in the run up to the blasts.


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