What will be the followup to new police move on the Birmingham bombings?

(Kieran) Conway, who is a now a solicitor in Dublin specialising in criminal defence,, voluntarily spoke to detectives in connection with his memoir of life inside the IRA “South Side Provisional”.

In the book, Conway revealed certain details about the Birmingham pub bombings to which the IRA has never officially admitted. No one has ever been convicted in relation to the atrocity in England’s second city…

For decades the IRA never publicly admitted they carried out the atrocity but Conway said not only did the organisation bomb Birmingham but also they knew in Dublin that the six Irishmen arrested over the explosions were innocent “from the get go, from the very start”.

Henry McDonald has a good  ” exclusive ” on the very old story of responsibility for the Birmingham bombing of 1974 that begot one of the worst cases of wrongful convictions in the twentieth century.

Detectives investigating the IRA’s murder of 21 people in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have interviewed the Provisionals’ director of intelligence at the time of the atrocity, who admitted he was debriefed after the attack.

Kieran Conway confirmed that he was questioned by officers from West Midland police’s counter-terrorism unit in Dublin on Friday.

The Birmingham Mail  interviewed Conway about his book  last November.

Speaking exclusively to the Birmingham Mail on the eve of the 41st anniversary of the pub bombings, Mr Conway said the bomber had “totally gone to pieces”.

Conway told the Guardian he quit the IRA in 1993  “when he left in protest at the IRA’s acceptance of the Downing Street declaration.” Last August, around the time of the the 41st anniversary of the wrongful convictions, the former MP Chris Mullin who exposed  them in his book Error of Judgment” decades previously  told the Birmingham Mail.

  “People occasionally write to me. The reason I’ve not got involved with that (Justice4the21 campaign) is because it is misleading people to pretend that after 40 years there is going to be convictions from this and I don’t wish to arouse hopes falsely.

“For a start, two of the perpetrators are dead and therefore not available, and there is no evidence that would stand up in court that could be used against the others.

“The only circumstances, of course, would be if they confessed.

“But 40 years have gone by and they haven’t and it is not very likely that they ever will.”

 What more can we learn from the revelations of Kieran Conway?  That the guilty parties were named long ago but were not brought to court and even now  those names are not easily repeated. That he alleges there was collusion amounting to hands-on support for the IRA from members of the Dublin establishment. Will the Gardai investigate?

What else might we consider? How will West Midlands police follow up their interview with Conway?  Is there any sign of mounting pressure to reopen the inquests in line with pressure over major cases in Northern Ireland? A guide to that will be the degree of followup to McDonald’s  report of Conway’s police interview. I wouldn’t count on much in the era of jihadism in spite of the potential parallels between then and now. “Ireland “is a dead story.

Secondly what might be the lessons for “ information retrieval” at home? Patchy I’d say, Conway is not the only ex provisional to opt for limited disclosure, perhaps as a conscience salver, (including the familiar regret at the bombers being unable  to find a working telephone in time to give a warning : how unfortunate  that  their humane instincts were  so often let down by the state of the phones for which of course they were not to blame).

Conway’s account  whets the appetite for wider disclosure by those like him who were further up the scale of command, including state servants. This is the missing big dimension on the past which “information retrieval “ seems  unlikely to supply.  Perhaps intentionally? Concentrating on separate incidents only for the sake of victims will fail to reveal the bigger picture which is so badly needed.

 

 

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London