Fury of victims' families as IRA Birmingham bomb suspect issues apology
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Fury of victims' families as IRA Birmingham bomb suspect issues apology

AN IRISHMAN who says he was a 'participant' in the Birmingham bombings has issued an apology, but has refused to admit who was behind the atrocity.

Twenty-one people were killed on November 21, 1974 when bombs exploded in the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs in the city centre, in what became the worst single loss of life in the Troubles.

Michael Christopher Hayes, 69, has told the BBC he is sorry innocent people were killed, but when asked who planted the bombs, he replied "no comment".

He said: "You would want me to go in and give the name of other men, to become an informer? I'd sooner die in front of you than become an informer."

No-one has ever been brought to justice for the killings after six innocent men were wrongfully convicted having served nearly 17 years behind bars in one of the worst miscarriages of justice seen in Britain.

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Hayes, who now lives in Dublin, said two people planted the bombs but refused to explain any further.

"I've been accused of a lot of things, without one shred of forensic evidence, without one statement made, without one witness coming out against me," he said.

He also said it was not the IRA's intention to kill innocent people, blaming broken and busy phone lines for delaying the time given to evacuate the buildings before the bombs exploded.

"We were horrified when we heard because it was not intended. I personally defused the third bomb," he said.

But relatives of some of the victims have described the apology as "gutless and spineless".

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the 1974 atrocity, said that Mr Hayes had "admitted nothing".

"He said he does not want to be an informer, he’d rather die? Oh, really? So he’s more than happy to help and take collective responsibility for those who were murdered and unarmed, innocents... but he won’t tell us who actually did it and also dismisses himself as being party to it?" she said.

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Paul Rowlands, who lost his father John, said Hayes’s comments merely added to the many "rumours" surrounding the case.

"I’m not convinced of his role in the pub bombing," he said. "There’s information we’ve seen that can’t be made public that contradicts what he says."

Another relative, Brian Hambleton, suggested Mr Hayes was avoiding answering direct questions.

"I’d love to meet this man. If he is a brave soldier, he’d meet us if he had nothing to hide. It’s obvious in that interview, he’s avoiding all questions," he said.

An inquest into the bombings has been reopened following a campaign by victims' families.