Police ‘should take action after broadcast of Birmingham bombing documentary’

An Ulster Unionist MLA has urged both the PSNI and West Midlands police to take action after an ITV documentary claimed to have identified two men involved in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.

The IRA bombs at the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush bars killed 21 people.

The ITV documentary, titled ‘Exposure: The Hunt For The Birmingham Bombers’ and shown late on Monday night, names former British soldier James Francis Gavin (who died in 2002) and Michael Patrick Reilly as the prime candidates for having planted the bombs.

The documentary saw reporter John Ware confront Mr Reilly outside a supermarket.

Mr Ware said: “I’ve got to put a straight question to you: Did you plant the bombs in the Birmingham pubs that killed 21 people?”

Mr Reilly, who attempted to obscure his face, replied: “No. Now go away.”

Mr Ware persisted: “In your police interviews, you did say to the police that you knew the bombings were going to take place.”

Mr Reilly said: “No.”

Mr Ware asked: “Do you remember that?” Again, Mr Reilly replied “no”, before adding: “Nothing to say. You’re wasting your time.”

Mr Ware added: “You were in the IRA, were you not?” Mr Reilly, again, said: “I have nothing to say.”

A lawyer for Mr Reilly said the allegations are “untrue and without any foundation”.

He added: “My client denies any allegation that he was involved in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings. The naming of my client in this manner is akin to trial by media. My client has not been convicted of any offence in relation to the 1974 pub bombings. The best place for these serious allegations to be tested is within the criminal justice system and not via a television programme.”

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said the broadcast “should be seized on by the authorities... this is an opportunity for West Midlands Police to reopen the investigation aided by the PSNI in making suspects available for interview”.

He added: “It is also worth noting that if the Government’s proposed legacy bill – presently the subject of public consultation – becomes legislation, then bombings like Birmingham will not form part of the Historical Investigations Unit caseload as it took place outside Northern Ireland.”

PSNI said: “As the bombings occurred in Birmingham, this is a matter for West Midlands Police, not the PSNI.”

West Midlands Police said: “The pub bombing investigation, while not an active inquiry, has never closed and we will respond to any new significant information to bring those responsible to justice.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on any individual while the inquest proceedings are ongoing.”