A 69-year-old self-confessed former IRA man has stated that he was part of the group responsible for the 1974 Birmingham bombings in which 21 people were killed.
Michael Christopher Hayes from south Dublin said he took what he called "collective responsibility" for all the IRA's actions in England, including the Birmingham pub bombings.
Mr Hayes however 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 would make him an informer, he said.
As well as the huge loss of life and the 222 people who were injured in the blasts the bombings resulted in six innocent people, the Birmingham Six, being convicted and imprisoned for almost 17 years for the IRA attack.
Mr Hayes told the BBC he was sorry for the hurt caused to the relatives of those killed. “My apologies and my heartfelt sympathy to all of you for a terrible tragic loss that you have been put through,” he said.
“In all these years that you have been trying to find closure, I hope at last God will be merciful and bring you closure,” he added.
“I apologise not only for myself, I apologise for all active republicans who had no intention of hurting anybody and sympathise with you,” said Mr Hayes.
One of the Birmingham Six, Paddy Hill said it was well known that Mr Hayes was implicated in the bombings. He was dismissive of his apology.
"It is an insult to the Birmingham families, and it is 40 years too late," he told The Irish Times.
“His apology means nothing to me. It is useless. You could never apologise to the families of those who died. No apology in the world could make up for anything,” added Mr Hill who along with five others served almost 17 years in prison before they were acquitted and released.
Mr Hayes told the BBC he was in the IRA for more than 30 years both in Ireland and England, stating that he was "a participant in the IRA's activities in Birmingham".
He said he personally had defused a third bomb left on Birmingham’s Hagley Road at the time of the bombings.
Mr Hayes said he was questioned about the bombing by West Midlands Police but was released.
He said the bombs contained gelignite and were planted by two individuals. Asked directly by journalist Kevin Magee if he had planted the bombs he said, "no comment, no comment".
Further pressed if he was one of the bombers he said, “I’m not telling you, I’m not telling you.”
“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.”
“It was not the intention of the IRA to kill innocent people. That wasn’t meant. It wouldn’t have been done if that was the case,” he added.
The intention was to provide a 30-minute bomb warning but that “eight priceless minutes” were lost because, he understood, one of the telephone boxes to be used to make the telephone warnings was broken and another one was occupied.
Mr Hayes said he would not be attending the forthcoming new inquests into those killed in the bombings. “I can sleep at night because I am not a murderer,” he said.
Mr Hayes said he could not be held responsible for the imprisonment of the Birmingham Six. He could not have been expected to “inform” on those who planted the bombs. “Let me tell you my good man I would sooner die than become an informer. I would sooner die in front of you than become an informer.”
Such an admission in any case would not have helped the Birmingham Six, he added.
Julie Hambleton, whose 18 year-old sister Maxine was killed in the explosions, also was dismissive of Mr Hayes's statement. "He's a coward, as simple as that," she said. "He'll take collective responsibility for those unarmed, innocent people, but won't say who done it. He's gutless and spineless. He's told us nothing, he's admitted nothing," she added.
West Midlands police said their investigation remained open and it would respond to “any new significant information to bring those responsible to justice”.
“An inquest is due to start and we will not be providing any further comment until the proceedings have concluded,” said a spokesperson.