Belfast Telegraph

Birmingham bomb suspect says sorry for IRA atrocity

One of the main suspects in the IRA's 1974 bombing of two pubs in Birmingham has issued an apology for one of the worst terrorist atrocities in British history.

Michael Christopher Hayes - a self-confessed IRA bomb maker who describes himself as "active in the West Midlands" at the time of the attack - told the BBC that he takes "collective responsibility" for the attack, and says that he is ashamed of the loss of life.

"My apologies and my heartfelt sympathy to all of you for a terrible, tragic loss that you've been put through. And for all these years that you've been trying to find closure - I hope at last God will be merciful and bring you closure," the 69-year-old said.

"And I apologise, not only for myself, I apologise for all active republicans who had no intention of hurting anybody and sympathise with you."

The double bombing in 1974 was the worst ever terrorist attack in Britain until the London 7/7 bombings in 2005. In total, 21 people died in the blast and almost 200 were injured.

Two bombs exploded on November 21 1974 in The Mulberry Bush and Tavern In The Town pubs in the city.

A third, unexploded bomb was found in the doorway of Barclays Bank on Hagley Road.

 I take full collective responsibility for all operations carried out in the West Midlands. I take collective responsibility for every IRA operation carried out in England, let alone Birmingham. Michael Christopher Hayes

The youngest victims were Neil Marsh and Jane Davis, who were both 17 at the time.

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the attack, has said that an apology from the IRA would be offensive, and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

The botched police investigation into the attacks led to the wrongful convictions of the Birmingham Six - one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in British legal history. No-one else has been convicted of the attacks.

In 1990, 16 years after the attack and the year that the six men wrongly convicted of the attack were freed, Mr Hayes was named by Granada television in a dramatic production as one of the bombers in the attack.

In a new documentary, the BBC's Kevin Magee asks Mr Hayes directly if he was involved in planting the bombs.

Mr Hayes responds by saying: "No comment. No comment. I've been accused of a lot of things, without one shred of forensic evidence, without one statement made, without one witness coming out against me."

The former IRA man, who lives in south Dublin, said two men planted the bombs, but he refused to name them or say if he was one of them.

He also repeated a claim that he defused the third bomb that had been planted in the city once he heard of the carnage the first two explosions had caused.

An inquest into the bombings is set to reopen this Autumn but Mr Hayes said he will not give evidence.

The IRA has never officially claimed responsibility for what happened.

BBC News NI Special 'Who Bombed Birmingham?' will be broadcast at 10.40pm July 10 on BBC One Northern Ireland.

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