Birmingham bomb hearings will bring no comfort, says ex-IRA man

‘The families want to see people convicted,’ says solicitor Kieran Conway

Kieran Conway, the former head of IRA intelligence: claimed the bombers were “relatively blameless” and that  their identities were well-known. Photograph: Barry Moore

Kieran Conway, the former head of IRA intelligence: claimed the bombers were “relatively blameless” and that their identities were well-known. Photograph: Barry Moore

 
The families of the victims of the Birmingham bombings are unlikely to get any comfort from the decision to hold fresh inquests into the deaths

, a former head of IRA intelligence has said.

Kieran Conway, a Dublin-based solicitor who ran the IRA’s clandestine operations until 1975, said the decision to hold new inquests would not bring comfort to the families.

“The families want a trial, they want to see people convicted. That is never going to happen. I am glad for the families, but I don’t think it will bring them any comfort.”

Mr Conway also yesterday claimed the bombers were “relatively blameless”, adding their identities were well known. He said there were a number of reasons why he believes nobody would ever be convicted. One was that there was no evidence for the killings unless someone handed themselves into police in England and admitted to carrying out the bombings.

He said there was a third bomb which did not detonate but no evidence remained of it.

Mr Conway said it would be very hard to extradite individuals from Ireland to Britain, and added that a full tribunal was the least the British state owed the families of the victims.

He was challenged yesterday by a sister of a Birmingham bomb victim after he said the bombers were “relatively blameless” and would never face justice despite their identities being widely known.

Speaking to The Irish Times, he described one as a “lowly volunteer” and a “bomb planter”.

Julie Hambleton, whose older sister Maxine was among the 21 killed in the bombings, was taking part in a BBC Radio 4 Today discussion with Mr Conway.

Mr Conway said that while the carnage was “appalling on every level” and “immoral”, the fact that warnings were reportedly attempted – but thwarted by vandalised phone boxes – reduced the blame.

“I take the view that appalling and all as the bombs were, the volunteers who carried them out were relatively blameless in that their only fault was that they carried out the instructions of their commander.

“Their only fault was that they didn’t – and this would have been elementary, I was trained in bomb-planting myself and planted a few in my time – in advance check that they had working phone boxes and a back-up in case of difficulty. I don’t view IRA volunteers as murderers; I view them as people who participated in a just war.”

‘Delusional’

Ms Hambleton said he was “delusional” and gave a graphic description of the injuries suffered by victims.

“Men or women, we don’t know, planned, prepped, put together bombs, walked into two pubs and then claim that it was an accident? I have never heard such a load of utter rubbish. It was ‘an accident’, it was ‘approved’, he doesn’t consider them to be murderers?

“I wonder if one of his kids was killed beyond description – when all their skin has literally been stripped off their body, they’ve got no legs, they’ve got no arms, you can’t recognise them by their face because their injuries are such that they’ve already been partially cremated – how dare he make such harrowing and horrendous statements over the airwaves.”