Saturday 17 August 2019

Birmingham bomber 'devastated by carnage'

Kieran Conway
Kieran Conway

Suzanne Breen

A former IRA director of intelligence has said 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.

He told reporters at the weekend that he would be "more than happy" to talk to the West Midlands Police about the bombings, but the force has not yet taken up his 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 that 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 had not 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.

He said: "The man was in bits for a long time over what happened. It cracked him up."

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was killed in the bombings, said she took no solace from the claim 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 the bombers narrowly avoided 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 believes the other bombers will never face justice as they are living in the Republic and the authorities there won't extradite them to the UK. "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 it they went to the UK," he stated.

He said he had volunteered to talk to West Midlands Police. "I've told them they can come to Dublin and speak directly to me or do it through the Garda."

Mr Conway, who was jailed for arms possession in the Maze in the 70s, is now a Dublin solicitor.

He outlined his time in the IRA in a book, 'Southside Provisional', last year.

Irish Independent

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