The 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings were one of the single largest losses of life in the Troubles. A self-confessed IRA bomb-maker offers an apology to the victims' families.
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Here's Who Bombed Birmingham?
Irish Republicans stage an act of defiance.
This display was at the funeral of IRA man Michael Gaughan.
These pictures give a rare glimpse into the secret world
of the IRA in England.
One of these men was an active member of one of the IRA's
most notorious units.
This man has told us he was part of the IRA group that planned
and blew up two pubs in Birmingham in 1974,
killing 21 people - then the worst act of mass murder
carried out on British soil.
This is the same man 43 years later, walking through Dublin.
His name is Michael Christopher Anthony Hayes.
The IRA campaign may be over, but Mick Hayes clings to the uniform
of his paramilitary past.
He's been accused of being one of those who planted the Birmingham
pub bombs but has never faced charges.
He says he was an active volunteer in the city the night
the bombs exploded.
Tonight, he breaks his silence about his IRA past.
I take absolute, total collective responsibility -
and, yes, I feel justified in being part of any part of the IRA
that operated in England.
There was no intention of the IRA to kill innocent people.
That wasn't meant.
That wasn't done.
It wouldn't have been done, if that was the case.
Did you plant a bomb...
..in the Tavern in the Town...
I'm not telling you, no.
..or the Mulberry Bush?
I'm not telling you.
My role? I was an active volunteer.
To bring the focus of the war...
to the attention of the English people.
In reality, bringing it to the attention of the English
people meant unleashing a vicious wave of attacks in the West Midlands
in the early '70s.
In a sustained campaign over 18 months, 50 bombs
and incendiary devices exploded.
On the 21st of November, as thousands of people were enjoying
a night out in Birmingham, the IRA attacked the city centre.
A bomb exploded in the Mulberry Bush bar at about 8:15.
Ten people were killed.
ARCHIVE: The force of one of the explosions was so great it
badly damaged a bus passing the street.
Minutes later, a second bomb exploded - this time at the Tavern
in the Town.
11 people died in the blast.
Altogether, around 200 people were injured.
Warnings were given, but they were too vague
and too late.
It wasn't until next morning, with more than 50 dying
and mutilated victims still in Birmingham's hospitals,
that people realised the full scale of the disaster.
Although it's more than 40 years since the bombs exploded,
the people of Birmingham have never forgotten what happens.
The original inquest didn't conclude, and it's scheduled
to reopen again this autumn - and the relatives are hoping it
will provide them with answers to their many questions.
The inquest is being reopened following a campaign by the victims'
families, who feel that they've been denied justice and that their loved
ones have been forgotten.
Julie Hambleton's sister Maxine was 18 when she died
in the explosion in the Tavern in the Town.
She'd gone there to invite her friends to her house-warming party.
My brother IDed Maxine...
My mother IDed Maxine...
..the thought of knowing that our mum has that memory,
her last memory of her daughter, of her burned remains, haunts me.
She said that her hair...
..was melted in her face...
..and it was very difficult to...
..recognise her - and we've since found out,
because we had the postmortem reports, what her other
injuries were, and...
..that's so hard.
That is so hard.
And Maxine did nothing to no-one.
She was a really, really good sister.
She'd do anything for us.
And we love her.
We love her today as we did...
..the day we lost her.
Even at this late stage, the relatives had hoped
the reopening of the inquests would be an opportunity for them
to find out who was responsible for the act of mass murder.
Why is it so important for the perpetrators to be named?
If we allow people to come to any one of our cities and kill
with impunity, and never be brought to justice,
what sort of society are we leaving for future generations?
So, the perpetrator issue is seismic for us -
and it should be for everybody.
In the aftermath of the explosions, grief soon turned to anger,
and there were anti-Irish protests on the streets.
ALL CHANT AND SING.
Six Irishmen living in Birmingham were quickly
charged and wrongfully convicted.
Known as the Birmingham Six, some of them were coerced
into signing confessions after being mistreated in custody.
In 1991, their convictions were finally quashed by the Court
of Appeal - but only after they'd spent 16 years in jail for something
they didn't do.
I don't think them people in there have got the intelligence
nor the honesty to spell the word, never mind dispense it!
So, if the Birmingham Six didn't carry out the explosions,
then just who did?
Five IRA men, all active in the West Midlands in 1974,
have been linked to the bomb attacks in Birmingham.
For years, one of the key suspect has been this man,
In the summer of 1974, he was living in the Acocks Green
area of south Birmingham.
A self-confessed veteran IRA man, today he lives in Dublin.
We went in search of him to ask him what role he played
in the Birmingham pub bombs.
We met a number of times.
He said he'd need to clearance from senior Republicans
to speak to me...
..and then he finally agreed to talk openly,
in detail, about the Birmingham pub bombings.
Well, I'll put it like this.
Throughout the period of the campaign in the West Midlands,
I was active throughout the campaign.
I was active throughout the whole campaign in the West Midlands.
So, what was your role in the Birmingham pub bombings?
I just told you, I was a participant in the IRA's activities in
How clear can I make it?
Tell me about the bomb in the Mulberry Bush.
What type of bomb was it?
What type of bomb? In what way, what type of bomb?
It was a gelignite bomb.
Made of gelignite.
What size was it?
You're asking what the forensic details was?
I would suggest it would have been about 12 pounds.
And where was it placed in the bar? As I understand...
As I understand, it was placed under a table.
Repeating what I've heard. That's what I'm saying to you.
It's up to your viewers and yourself...
to interpret what I'm saying.
That's the only answer I can give you.
Tell me about the bomb in the Tavern in the Town.
The same. What can you tell me?
The same thing.
A repeat of the first one. As I heard.
A repeat of the first one.
Michael Hayes says his IRA career lasted more than 30 years,
broken only by a three-year prison sentence spent in the Irish
IRA sources in Belfast describe him as "an operator".
Another former associate said he was "dangerous and ruthless".
When he arrived in England in the early '70s, he was already
an experienced IRA man.
The first bomb went off at 8:17.
Ten minutes later, at 8:27, the second bomb exploded.
Then, at 9:15, another undetonated device was discovered at Barclays
It received a lot less coverage over the years.
As well as the two bombs that ripped through the Tavern in the Town
and the Mulberry Bush, the IRA planted a third device
in Birmingham that night.
It was left here on the Hagley Road.
It didn't explode, and reports at the time said only the detonator
went off - but Michael Hayes tells a different story.
I was an IRA man in Birmingham, yes.
On the night that the Birmingham pub bombs were planted?
Yes, I was there in Birmingham.
And what was your role in the IRA in Birmingham that night
that the bombs were planted?
What was my role? I was a standby volunteer.
So what did you do that night? Take us through it.
I waited to see what was going to happen.
When we found out what had happened...
..we defused the third bomb on the Hagley Road.
Who defused it? I did.
We were horrified when we heard. 'Cause it wasn't intended.
I defused the bomb.
You personally? Yes, me personally.
This is a picture of the third bomb.
While it would have undoubtedly provided important forensic evidence
on the real bombers, it no longer can.
Several years ago, the West Midlands Police confirmed
that they'd lost it.
You say that you defused the third bomb in Birmingham that night.
How were you able to do that?
What expertise or knowledge did you have that allowed
you to defuse a bomb?
Quite a lot. Quite a lot.
I specialised in explosives.
Mm...I knew what I was doing.
Explain what it means to say you were into explosives.
To construct a bomb.
To make a bomb. To make a bomb.
That's what I were into.
Clock timers - them days, we used clock timers.
That's the way it was done in them days.
Batteries, clock timer, one detonator.
Not electrical detonator, commercial.
And is that what the Birmingham bombs consisted of?
Yes, as I understand. Yes.
You see, that makes it sound like you did make the bombs.
I have no comment to make on that.
And you mustn't...think whatever you're thinking.
So you're saying that... You see....
You're being asked... I wasn't the...
You're being asked a simple question.
Did you make bombs that night?
I wasn't the only IRA man in the West Midlands.
There were other men there with me.
If people choose to believe that we've done this and done that,
that's what they want to believe, let them believe it.
VOICEOVER: Paddy Hill is one of the Birmingham Six.
Today, he lives in the Scottish countryside.
He says his life was destroyed by this miscarriage of justice.
It's ruined my life.
What do you call it...?
I don't know how to put it.
But nothing means nothing.
You know? Nothing means nothing.
I'm more at home with animals than I am with people.
You big daftie!
Good girl. Good girl.
Paddy Hill, too, wants the bombers named and hopes the inquest
will go even further.
I hope that they will show the truth, because the truth has
never been...been told.
I want them to show who made the bombs, who planted the bombs,
and I also want them to show what happened to us,
and what I want is for the truth to come out.
I have a different agenda than the families.
The families want to know who was responsible.
And of course, me, I want to know who was responsible for giving
the orders for us to be tortured and framed.
Why didn't you walk into a police station and say "I know who did
this," in order to get the Birmingham Six released?
Now that is about a...
You'd want me to go in and give the names of other men?
To become an informer?
Let me tell you, my good man, I'd sooner die than become an informer.
I would sooner die in front of you than become an informer.
Why didn't you go in and admit your own role in whatever you did
or were involved in in order to try and give an opportunity for the six
men to be released?
And what purpose would that serve?
You think that would have helped the Birmingham Six?
Then you would have had the Birmingham Seven.
I would have been one of them.
VOICEOVER: Chris Mullin is the former MP for Sunderland South
and he was instrumental in the campaign to free
the Birmingham Six.
He's sceptical that the reopened inquests will meet the expectations
of the relatives.
Several of the perpetrators of the bombings are dead,
and of those that are still alive, I'm not aware of any evidence that
would enable them to be brought before a court of law.
Perhaps if one of them was to own up and put his thumbprint
on a statement, admitting responsibility, that,
of course, would change the whole dynamic.
Mick Hayes says he was arrested and questioned
by the West Midlands Police in 1974 about the bombings,
but was let go.
In 1990, Granada Television made a drama-documentary called
Who Bombed Birmingham?
In it, Michael Hayes was named as one of those who planted
the Birmingham pub bombs.
In 1990, Granada Television made a drama-documentary
about the Birmingham pub bombings.
And they named you as one of the bombers.
Yes. Yes, they named me that, yeah.
I was named as such.
Not proven, but named.
How many people planted the bombs?
And who were they?
I'm not telling you. Were you one of them?
I'm not telling you.
I mean, you were named in 1990 as being one of...
I know I was named, yes, I know I was named, yes.
I know I was named.
Did you plant a bomb in the Tavern in the Town and the Mulberry Bush?
I'm not telling you, no.
I'm not telling you. I'm not telling you.
So what was your role in the Birmingham bombings?
As I just told you, I was a participant in the IRA's
activities in Birmingham.
I was an active volunteer.
An active volunteer.
Did you plant the Birmingham pub bomb that killed 21 people
in November 1974?
Again, no comment.
Why won't you answer the question?
No comment. No comment.
I've been accused...I've been accused of a lot of things,
without one shred...one shred of forensic evidence,
without one statement made, without one witness
coming against me.
But did you plant the bombs?
I was a participant in the IRA's campaign in England.
You are not answering the question.
Did you plant the bombs?
I'm giving you the only answer I can give you.
The only one that I can give you.
I will leave it to your viewers, your editorial staff,
whoever they are, to work out what I'm saying.
Again, 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.
So you are taking responsibility for the Birmingham pub bombs?
I will accept responsibility for them.
As collective responsibility, that's what I will accept.
That's what I will take.
Michael Hayes was not operating alone as part of the Birmingham IRA
on the night of the bombings.
One of his associates with this man, Mick Murray.
He was in the dock along with the Birmingham six but faced
lesser charges and got a nine-year sentence for bomb-related offences.
What was Mick Murray's role the night of the Birmingham pub
He phoned the warning.
As I understand.
He phoned the warning.
He phoned the warning.
And, obviously, he was too late with his warning.
There was a valuable eight minutes lost if my memory serves me correct.
Mick Murray was also named in the Granada TV documentary
and died in 1999.
The programme also identified Seamus McLoughlin -
known as Belfast Jimmy, a native of Ardoyne -
as the man in charge of the Birmingham IRA at the time
of the attacks.
He had a paramilitary-style funeral three years ago.
The fourth man was Jimmy Gavin, he's buried in the IRA's,
Republican plot in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.
On returning to Ireland after the Birmingham bombings,
Jimmy Gavin served a life sentence after he murdered a man
in Dublin in 1977.
James Francis Gavin was a prominent member of the IRA in Birmingham...
..so far as I'm aware, though he never told me this
and he too is dead.
The bombs were collected from his house.
Whether he was one of the planters or not, I don't know.
He made bombs.
He made up bombs.
He was a volunteer - an explosives volunteer.
He was a bomb maker?
Did he make the Birmingham pub bombs?
I've no comment to make.
So you and Jimmy Gavin, as he was known, worked together
as two IRA bomb makers in Birmingham in the early '70s.
We were both into explosives, yes.
We were both explosives men, yeah.
The final suspect has never been publicly identified.
While the name of the fifth member of the gang has been kept secret
for 43 years, the impact of what the IRA did that night,
is felt to this very day.
The relatives of the victims have always wanted the names
of the suspects to be disclosed at the inquest.
But just last week, the coroner ruled their identities won't be
discussed, a blow to the families - who have called his decision
I lost my father in the Birmingham pub bombs.
For me, I want to know who done it.
There was a lot of speculation about who may and who may not have
done it and I go through my daily life, I'm a Brummie,
I still spend a lot of time in Birmingham and I never quite know
who I'm standing next to and I may well be standing next to the person
that killed my father.
You were ashamed?
I'm deeply ashamed.
Not ashamed of the IRA's role...
..but ashamed of the fact that such things had to happen.
The IRA has never formally claimed responsibility or apologised
directly to the families for the 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham.
But Mick Hayes says he is sorry.
My message is as it has always been.
My apologies and my heartfelt sympathy to all of you for
a terrible, tragic loss that you've been put through.
And for all these years you've been trying to find closure,
I hope at last God will be merciful and bring you closure.
And I apologise not only for myself, I apologise for all Republicans
who had no intention of hurting anybody and sympathise with you.
Would an apology mean anything if someone was to say,
look, I am sorry, it was a mistake, we didn't mean it.
No, no, no, no.
No, it would be insulting.
You've murdered 21 people and all you've got is "sorry"?
What about, "I did it, I'm handing myself in."
That might help.
Please, don't insult us.
Do you have a clear conscience?
Very much so, yes.
I can sleep at night-time.
Yes, I do.
Because I'm not a murderer.
I'd like them to grow some balls and come forward and say,
"I did it and I'm prepared to serve the time "for the heinous crime
No more, no less.
But why don't you just come clean on your role
in the Birmingham pub bombings?
I gave you an answer.
I didn't tell you an untruth.
I gave you an answer.
Why don't you answer the question?
It's the only way I can answer you.
That's the only way I can answer you.
You can think what you wish.
As the viewers will think, as the people who read
this will think.
You must think as you wish.
The coroner has ruled he won't allow the names of the suspects to be
discussed at the forthcoming inquests.
The relatives say that they are well used to setbacks
in their quest for justice.
Unless the coroner's decision is overturned,
what you've just heard could be the fullest account anyone will hear
about one of the largest unsolved mass murders ever carried out
on British soil.
The 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings were one of the single largest losses of life in the Troubles. A self-confessed IRA bomb-maker says he was part of the group that planned and carried out the attacks and offers an apology to the victims' families.