‘Courageous’ apology from Michael Hayes for IRA bombings

Hayes takes ‘collective responsibility’ for actions in England, including Birmingham bombing

Kieran Conway, above, believes Michael Hayes had given the apology in the hope that it would help the relatives of those killed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Kieran Conway, above, believes Michael Hayes had given the apology in the hope that it would help the relatives of those killed. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Former IRA member Kieran Conway says he believes the apology offered by Michael Hayes to the relatives of the Birmingham bombing is a “courageous” move, given his years of anonymity.

Mr Conway, who is now a Dublin-based solicitor but ran the IRA’s intelligence operation until 1975, said he believed Hayes had given the apology in the hope that it would help the relatives of those killed.

Speaking to the BBC, Hayes, who lives in the Coombe in Dublin, said he took what he called “collective responsibility” for all the IRA’s actions in England, including the Birmingham pub bombing.

However, he refused to identify the names of those who placed the bombs in the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town pubs in Birmingham on November 21st, 1974. To do so, he said, would make him an informer.

“With the inquest coming up and hearing the feelings of the relatives he probably felt that he could perhaps say something that could help them in some small way,” Mr Conway told The Irish Times.

The inquests into the deaths of the bomb victims have been re-opened following a 40-year campaign by the victims’ families, though they are already unhappy about limits put on its scope.

Suspects

Last week former chief coroner of England and Wales Sir Peter Thornton said suspects will not be investigated or named during the hearings – a ruling denounced by the families as a “whitewash”.

The identification of the perpetrators – a couple of whom are still alive – is not possible, said Thornton, because it is not “in the public interest for these investigations and inquests to pursue unachievable, or indeed unlawful objectives”.

However, he said he would accept evidence about whether West Midlands Police had been tipped off twice about the possibility of bomb attacks in the days before the November 1974 atrocity.

Last June, a pre-inquest hearing was told that police had been told about an overheard conversation involving IRA members 11 days before the attack, but there is no evidence that the police did anything to stop it.

Hayes, said Conway, had “broken cover” by being interviewed now: “Look, I’m reluctant to use the word courageous but yes, it’s the only word that comes to mind.

“Mick is the sort of guy that was hiding in the bushes all those years and not known to anyone and it must have been very difficult for him to do,” Conway told The Irish Times.

“I’m surprised Mick has come out of the bushes after all this times it would have been difficult for him,” Mr Conway went on, “I know his apology is very difficult for the relatives but I think they should try and take it for what it is.”

‘Messed up’

The IRA had made it clear immediately after the Birmingham pub bombings that it had “messed up”, he said: “They made it clear from day one, they admitted look it was us, it was a mess up.”

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan said Hayes should make himself available to British police for interview, saying that his interview makes clear that he has is possession of relevant information.

Criticising Hayes for speaking to the BBC without co-operating with the authorities, or contacting the relatives, O’Callaghan said: “Giving an interview on television is no replacement for justice and is of no benefit to the families of the bereaved.”

However, Fine Gael TD, Alan Farrell held out little hope that Hayes’ interview will lead to anything: “I think there might be difficulties under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement if, for example, an effort was made to extradite him.

“I have no truck with any of these people but I do not see the Irish authorities having any oar in it unless there is evidence that he was orchestrating or managing terrorist activities in the Republic,” he said.