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Birmingham pub bomber in torment, says ex-Provo chief

By Suzanne Breen

Published 23/11/2015

The scene of the Birmingham pub bombings and (left), Kieran Conway
The scene of the Birmingham pub bombings and (left), Kieran Conway
Kieran Conway

A former IRA director of intelligence has said that the man who planted the Birmingham bombs was mentally "in bits" for years after the atrocity in which 21 civilians were slaughtered.

Ex-Provisional Kieran Conway was speaking at the weekend on the 41st anniversary of the bombings.

Mr Conway, who played no part in the explosions and has long since left the IRA, apologised for the horrific attack.

And he told the Belfast Telegraph that he would be "more than happy" to talk to the West Midlands Police about the bombings but that the force hadn't taken up his interview offer.

Mr Conway said: "Given what happened, I know my apology is of little use. But I am saying sorry anyway because, as a former member of the IRA, I feel I bear a certain moral responsibility.

"I believe Birmingham was the worst atrocity committed by the IRA and I have no hesitation in saying that I'm deeply ashamed of it. It was not legitimate to target civilians in that way."

He claimed that the IRA leadership hadn't sanctioned the bombings and was "furious" afterwards. He said the man who had planted the bombs was haunted over the innocent lives he had taken.

Mr Conway said that the IRA had ordered this man to confess what he'd done to Chris Mullin, a former journalist who later became an MP and campaigned to free the Birmingham Six.

He said: "The man was in bits for a long time over what happened. It cracked him up. He was ordered to tell what he'd done to Chris Mullin. His OC was against it, as was the IRA chief-of-staff, but a majority on the Army Council insisted on it."

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed in the bombings, said she took no solace in the fact that one of the bombers was tormented. "He is still alive with a guilty conscience - lucky him," she said.

Mr Conway learned details of the bombing from former IRA leader Daithi O Conaill.

He said that the bombers narrowly avoided facing an IRA court-martial and death penalty because their story about faulty phone boxes delaying the warning was eventually accepted by the leadership.

Mr Conway said one member of the IRA team, Mick Murray, was now dead. He believed the others would never face justice as they are living in the Republic and the authorities wouldn't extradite them to Britain.

"I have no knowledge of them receiving comfort letters as on-the-runs so that isn't an issue. But I think they'd face charges only if they went to the UK."

He said he'd volunteered to talk to West Midlands Police about what he knew. "I've told them they can come to Dublin and speak directly to me or do it through the Garda. They've not taken up either offer," he said.

Mr Conway, who was jailed in the Maze for arms possession in the 1970s, is now a Dublin solicitor. He outlined his time in the IRA in a book, Southside Provisional, last year.

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