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Birmingham pub bombings: Convicted IRA bomber names four men in connection with 1974 bombings

Birmingham pub bombings inquest Credit: ITV Central

A convicted IRA bomber known as 'Witness O' has named four men he says were responsible for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings during the inquest into the deaths of the 21 victims.

The head of the IRA has given permission for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombers to be named at an inquest, jurors have been told.

The blasts at the Mulberry Bush in the base of the city's Rotunda, and the basement Tavern in the Town in nearby New Street, killed 21 people and injured 220 more.

Bereaved families have waited 44 years for fresh inquests, which are now in their fourth week.

On Friday, in a dramatic turn, an anonymous ex-IRA volunteer giving evidence at inquests said he had been told by the current head of the IRA, six months ago in Dublin, that he could name those who he knew were involved.

The man, identified only as Witness O and speaking over a secure video-link, named the officer commanding (OC) the Birmingham IRA at the time as Seamus McLoughlan, and as the person responsible for selecting the targets.

He added that Mick Murray was "one of the bombers" and claimed he recalled how Murray told him there would be "no harm" if similar bombings had been repeated, because of the "chaos" caused.

When pressed by a lawyer for the bereaved families, he said Michael Hayes and James Gavin were also part of the team.

All four men have been previously named in connection with the bombings, but not in a formal setting.

Witness O, who described the bombings as an "atrocity", said he had nothing to do with the attacks as he had been remanded to Winson Green jail some time before.

Pressed by Lesley Thomas, the barrister representing nine of the bereaved families, that another member of the bombings team was Michael Hayes, he replied: "Hayes, Hayes - I'll give it (the name) to you now."

He added, in apparent reference to the Good Friday Agreement: "But he can't be arrested.

"There is nobody going to be charged with this atrocity.

"The British Government have signed an agreement with the IRA."

Then asked about "James Gavin", he replied: "Well he was (involved), I met him in Dublin and he said he was."

All the men have been named before in connection with the bombings, but not in a formal setting.

Witness O, who was in jail at the time of the bomb attacks, described the bombings as "an atrocity".

He also claimed he had given McLoughlan's name to two police detectives while in HMP Winson Green just days after the bombings, but heard nothing more.

He added that two other men, who he identified as "Dublin Dave" and "Socks" had also been involved, but that he did not know either man's name.

Mr Thomas QC then asked about whether Michael Patrick Reilly had been involved.

The witness, who told the jury he was a convicted IRA bomber who served a prison sentence in the 1970s, replied: "No, I don't remember him at all. Reilly? I would remember that."

The barrister then used an alleged reference to Mr Reilly, used in the book Error of Judgement by former MP and journalist Chris Mullin, when he asked the former IRA man: "Michael Patrick Reilly, sometimes referred to as 'The Young Planter'?

"You know who he is, don't you? He's the one you're protecting, isn't he?"

The witness replied: "Who? Protecting who? No.

"My situation was I was in Manchester, and I came to Birmingham and I was only in Birmingham a couple of weeks."

Mr Reilly has always denied any involvement in the bombings.

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