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IRA suspect's apology is worthless, says sister of Birmingham bombs victim

By Cate McCurry

The sister of a woman killed in the Birmingham pub bombs has slammed a self-confessed IRA bomber's apology as "worthless" after he accepted "collective responsibility" for the atrocity.

Michael Christopher Hayes (69) said he was in Birmingham on the night of the 1974 attacks but declined to comment on whether he was directly involved.

In an interview with the BBC, Hayes also reiterated an apology he made to the families of the 21 victims in a newspaper interview last year.

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed, dismissed the apology, describing it as "empty words".

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

And he stood by his refusal not to give evidence to the forthcoming inquest into the Birmingham bombs.

Hayes, who was named as a suspect in the Birmingham attacks in a TV documentary in 1990, repeatedly refused to comment when asked if he had any direct involvement in the attacks.

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.

"No comment," he said when asked.

Hayes said: "I was a participant in the IRA's activities in Birmingham.

"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." On the night of November 21, 1974, the IRA planted two bombs which ripped through the Tavern in the Town and nearby Mulberry Bush pubs, killing 21 and injuring 182 others.

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.

Asked what his message to the victims was, Hayes said: "My apologies and my heartfelt sympathy to all of you for a terrible tragic loss that you have been put through.

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

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

Ms Hambleton, who heads the Justice4the21 campaign group, accused Hayes of "talking in riddles".

She said: "He was contradicting himself by not admitting he did it but then saying he took collectively responsibility for the attacks.

"Those who perpetrated this atrocity and destroyed so many lives haven't got the courage to come forward.

"They continue to run away and live full lives yet no one is looking for them.

"That man is part of a wider conspiracy and he knew full well what was happening at the time of the bomb.

"His words are empty, particularly his apology.

"It's worthless and it's a waste of his breath and a waste of our time.

"Please don't insult us."

A number of local political parties have called for further investigations to be carried out into the claims, including the Ulster Unionists and Alliance.

TUV leader Jim Allister said Hayes should be extradited to the UK face conspiracy charges.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: "The investigation remains open and we will respond to any new significant information to bring those responsible to justice.

"An inquest is due to start and we will not be providing any further comment until the proceedings have concluded."

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