A decision to hold fresh inquests into the deaths of 21 people killed in the Birmingham pub bombings has been welcomed by Danny Kennedy.
The Ulster Unionist MLA said that although the senior coroner for Birmingham announced on Wednesday there was evidence that police had missed potential warnings, it was important to remember that the IRA was responsible for the mass murder.
Coroner Louise Hunt said “significant” new information about the double bomb attack in November 1974 had emerged,
During recent hearings, families of some of those killed in the blasts at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern In The Town pubs put forward a claim that the British state had prior knowledge of the attacks planned by the IRA.
Ms Hunt found that claims police had been protecting a mole in the IRA cell - made by the families - was unfounded.
But, setting out the reasons for her ruling, Ms Hunt said there was evidence that West Midlands Police had missed two potential warnings of the bomb attacks, including a comment made by men linked to the IRA that “Birmingham would be hit next week”.
Mr Kennedy said that while there were obvious shortcomings in the police investigation, it should not be forgotten that it was the Provisional IRA who planted the bombs.
“Similar to other cases in Northern Ireland such as Kingsmills, these are families who are still waiting for justice, in the knowledge this atrocity was carried out by the IRA, by republicans on the Great Britain mainland.
“We should never forget who ultimately was responsible for this and, even at this stage, there is still an onus on republicans, if they are interested as they say they are in truth recovery, that they should come forward and admit their responsibility for the comfort of the families,” Mr Kennedy added.
Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in one of the blasts, called the bombers cowards and said it was time they admitted their involvement in the crime.
“Do the right thing,” she said.
“If you have any level of humanity and any moral compass then by rights you should come forward.
“They ran away like cowards and have been hiding in full daylight, amongst their fellow citizens in Ireland apparently with their freedom, while our loved ones are dead and buried,” Ms Hambleton added.
Current West Midlands chief constable Dave Thompson said: “I hope the new inquest provides answers to families.”