Belfast Telegraph

Birmingham suspect 'also planted bomb which nearly killed Thatcher'

 

By Aaron Tinney

A former IRA bomb-maker who apologised for the Birmingham pub atrocities recently confessed to planting a device meant to kill Margaret Thatcher.

Michael Hayes caused outrage after appearing dressed in camouflage gear on the BBC on Monday night to make a grovelling apology for the 1974 Birmingham bombings.

But the 69-year-old was branded a "coward" by the sister on one of the blast's victims for refusing to admit being directly involved in the explosions that killed 21 people.

Last year, Hayes also confessed to setting the 1984 bomb in Brighton's Grand Hotel that was meant for then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Five people died when it detonated ahead of the Tory Party conference. Hayes then toasted Mrs Thatcher's 'death' with a glass of whiskey before realising the politician he called "it" and a "pig" was alive.

Patrick Magee was given a life sentence for the Brighton atrocity, but was released under the Good Friday Agreement in 1999 after serving 13 years.

Hayes was quoted in November last year by a national newspaper as saying: "I planted the bomb with Magee. We put it in. We were in the hotel four days. We were home three weeks before it went off. We missed her by 10 seconds."

The IRA terrorists had hidden a 30lb time bomb behind a bath panel in room 629, setting it to detonate 24 days later.

Hayes added: "We had one primary target. One only. Margaret Thatcher. We wanted to kill her.

"On that night I saved a bottle of Jameson. I was sitting on a farm with two members of the (IRA) Army Council.

"At first, the news said that we killed her. For the first time ever, I had a glass of whiskey.

"I stayed awake all night. I was delighted. Next morning it came out, we missed it. The pig."

A Granada TV documentary in 1990 accused Hayes of planting the Birmingham bombs in 1974 that killed 21. It also alleged he was behind the Hyde Park, Regent's Park and Harrods attacks in the early 1980s.

But Hayes, who lives in a south Dublin home that is a shrine to his dead terror pals, denied planting those bombs.

He even claimed he defused a third Birmingham bomb as the death toll became clear.

He was jailed for three years in 1976 for IRA membership and possession of arms and explosives.

In a BBC programme shown on Monday, Hayes did confess to being part of the IRA cell that carried out the Birmingham bomb attacks on two city centre bars, and said he took "collective responsibility" for the carnage.

He claimed the deaths were an accident as warnings were delayed due to phone boxes being used or out of order.

And after the bombs exploded in the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs, he claimed he personally defused a third device on the city's Hagley Road.

Dressed in army fatigues and a camouflage cap, he said: "We were horrified when we heard because it was not intended. I personally defused the third bomb."

Six men were wrongfully convicted of the bombings. The real murderers have never been brought to justice.

Hayes said: "My apologies and my heartfelt sympathy to all of you for a terrible tragic loss that you have been put through.

"In all these years that you have been trying to find closure, I hope at last God will be merciful and bring you closure.

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

Relatives of victims said Hayes' apology was "gutless and spineless."

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the Birmingham attacks, added: "He's a coward. He'll take collective responsibility for those unarmed, innocent people, but won't say who did it.

"He's gutless and spineless. He's told us nothing, he's admitted nothing."

Hayes refused to reveal the names of those involved in the bombings, proclaiming: "I'd sooner die in front of you than become an informer."

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