Belfast Telegraph

Ex-IRA man: I’ll tell Birmingham pub inquest what I know if I am granted immunity

Former intelligence chief apologises for Birmingham bombings which killed 21 people

By Suzanne Breen

A former IRA director of intelligence said he is willing to give evidence to the new inquest into the Birmingham pub bombings if he receives assurances that he won't be prosecuted.

Solicitor Kieran Conway, who played no part in the bombings but learned information about them later, said he would travel to England if the authorities agreed that he would not be arrested for past IRA membership.

Mr Conway revealed that he was also prepared to give evidence via video link from Dublin where he now lives and works.

The inquest into the bombings in which 21 people died and 182 were injured is being reopened after allegations that the police failed to act on advance warnings about the November 1976 attack.

Mr Conway told the Belfast Telegraph: "I am willing to go to England if the British informally indicate that I won't be arrested and prosecuted for historic IRA membership as Ivor Bell has been in Belfast.

"I am glad the Birmingham families have secured a fresh inquest but I fear that it won't bring them any comfort.

"They understandably want people put behind bars and I don't believe that is going to happen because the evidence isn't there.

"I wasn't involved in the bombings in any way and I included whatever information I later learned about them in my book, Southside Provisional, two years ago. So everything I know is already in the public domain.

"The only bit missing is the name of the second man who debriefed the IRA's England OC (Officer Commanding)."

Mr Conway said he wouldn't name the man because he was still alive but he wasn't integral to the case anyway. The other man involved in the debriefing was Daithi O Conaill, a former IRA chief-of-staff who died in 1991.

Mr Conway, who was jailed for arms possession in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, left the IRA many years ago.

Members of the West Midlands counter-terrorism unit travelled to Dublin to meet him earlier this year. They provided a list of questions which were put to him by gardai.

Mr Conway has agreed to their request for a second meeting. He said several of the bombers were living in the Republic and their names were well-known.

"The only way they will be convicted is if one or more of them walks into a police station and confesses to involvement in the bombings and that isn't going to happen," he added.

Mr Conway called for a tribunal of inquiry "headed by the most senior and brightest High Court judge that can be found" to be established after the inquest.

"The judge should have full powers to compel witnesses and documents," he said.

"That is the very least that the State can do for the families given all they have suffered."

Mr Conway claimed that the British security services had an advance warning of the bombings from an informer in England which could have prevented the atrocity.

He said he wished to apologise for the attack.

"I know my apology is of little use to the families," he stated, "but I want to say sorry anyway because former IRA members bear a collective moral responsibility for what the IRA did.

"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."

Belfast Telegraph


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