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Former IRA member turned solicitor to be quizzed over 1974 Birmingham pub bombings

Kieran Conway
Kieran Conway

A Dublin solicitor is to be quizzed by gardai about the Birmingham pub bombings of 1974 in which 21 people were killed by Provisional IRA attacks.

Kieran Conway, who admitted in his recently published book “Southside Provisional” that he was an IRA member for more than twenty years, has agreed to be interviewed as part of a new investigation by British police into the worst IRA atrocity on British soil.

Mr Conway will be interviewed by members of the Special Detective Unit in Dublin next week following a request from Birmingham police under a mutual assistance programme between the gardai and British police forces.

The Dublin solicitor has voluntarily agreed to meet with the SDU to answer questions prepared by the Birmingham police.

They are understood to centre on claims in his book that he was told about the pub bombings by the then IRA Chief off Staff Daithi O’Conaill (Dave O’Connell).

Twenty one people died and 150 were injured when no-warning bombs exploded in two crowded Birmingham pubs in November 1974.

Six innocent Irishmen were arrested by British police and later convicted of the pub bombings but the men - known as “The Birmingham Six” - were later cleared of the crimes and released after spending fifteen years in jail.

The Provisional IRA were widely blamed for the attacks but the organisation never publicly admitted the bombings.

Mr Conway recounts in his book that he at first believed that the Provisional IRA had deliberately targeted civilians in the Birmingham attacks.

“I was appalled and personally ashamed of the bombing, which went against everything we claimed to stand for, and told Dave O’Connell and Kevin Mallon exactly what I thought when we met up,” he said in his book.

“In fact, both men were themselves furious, fully recognising not just the damage the bombing had caused to the IRA but its immorality as well.

“The then England OC (Officer Commanding) and adjutant had made it home and were debriefed by O’Connell and another member of the leadership at the home of a well known journalist in south Dublin, to which I had been brought as well for different reasons. 

“I met both men and, though I took no part in the actual debrief, I was later told by Dave (O’Connell) that the early indications were that the casualties were the result of yet another failure in the warning system, a succession of phone boxes from which the warning might have been relayed having proved to be inoperable.”

A “World in Action” Granada TV investigation in 1985 claimed to have tracked down one of the men responsible for the Birmingham bombs to an apartment in inner city Dublin, although the programme did not identify the man.

It is widely believed that a Provisional IRA unit in the English midlands carried out the attacks in revenge for the death of IRA member James Mc Daid who was killed in a premature bomb explosion in Coventry days before the Birmingham bombs.

Mr Conway said in his book that he joined the IRA in 1970 and left in 1993. He now has a solicitor’s practice in Dublin, specialising in criminal law.