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Four men named in court as being responsible for the 1974 Birmingham pub explosions

FOUR men were named in court yesterday by a convicted IRA bomber as being responsible for the 1974 Birmingham pub explosions in which 21 people were killed.

Witness O named them during an inquest into the deaths and claimed he had been given permission to do so by the IRA’s top commander in Dublin.

He told the court that the commanding officer of the Birmingham IRA at the time of the bombings was Seamus McLoughlin, who was responsible for selecting the targets.

Mick Murray was named by Witness O as “one of the bombers” with Michael Hayes and James Gavin, who were also part of the active service unit in the city.

Witness O was also an active member of the Birmingham IRA team although had been in prison at the time of the bombings.

Two of the men — Mick Murray and James Gavin — had previously been named by former Labour MP Chris Mullin, whose campaigning helped secure the release of the Birmingham Six, who spent 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of the bombings.

Mick Murray died in 1999 with James Gavin passing away three years later in 2002.

Under cross-examination, the witness denied that Michael Patrick Reilly had been involved.

“No, I don’t remember him at all. Reilly? I would remember that,” he said in response to Mr Leslie Thomas QC.

The bombings of two pubs in Birmingham city centre — the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern — killed 21 people and injured at least 182 on November 21 1974.

It was initially claimed the blasts had not been sanctioned by the IRA and were an “operation that went badly wrong.”

The subsequent police investigations led to one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British legal history amid accusations of beatings and forced confessions. 

Fourteen prison officers were charged with assault in June 1975, but were all acquitted at a trial presided over by Mr Justice Swanwick.

Unreliable and contradictory forensic evidence was deemed permissible and helped secure the convictions of the six men. Following a lengthy campaign for justice, the sentences were overturned on appeal and the Birmingham Six were released in 1991.

The names of the suspected bombers were not included within the scope of the inquest, however Witness O said he agreed to do so after the relatives had been in “pain and suffering for the last 44 years.”

The inquest continues.

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