Following the IRA’s March 1973 bombings of The Old Bailey and Ministry of Agriculture and unsuccessful bomb attacks at New Scotland Yard and a BBC armed forces radio studio (where the bombs were defused), ten IRA volunteers from Belfast were quickly captured at Heathrow Airport. They included Marian and Dolours Price, Hugh Feeny and Gerry Kelly. All were convicted, one turned States’ Evidence against the rest and was released – Roisin McNearney – and another pleaded guilty to all charges on the first day of the trial, William McLarnon. The operation was a disaster. According to Ed Moloney’s ‘A Secret History of the IRA’, one of the chief organisers of that bombing operation was the Belfast Brigade’s Gerry Adams. Brendan ‘Darkie’ Hughes in his Boston Tapes’ confession claimed that he and Gerry Adams together chose the volunteers for the job.
The point at issue here is that the IRA’s Army Council decided in early 1973 NOT TO USE the local IRA units in England for its spectacular operations – they decided instead to use IRA units from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland in spite of the dangers of their having to travel to and from England, a danger that got ten Belfast IRA volunteers captured. The IRA’s Army Council believed that all of the local IRA units in England were infiltrated by informers.
Fast forward to June 1973 when I was eighteen years old and had just been injured by a letter bomb in Derry city and sought some medical treatment in Dublin for injuries to my hand and eye. Martin McGuinness introduced me to the IRA GHQ Director of Operations for Britain at that time, Kevin Mallon, newly appointed after the Belfast Brigade disastrous operation. The ‘Belfast 10’ debacle was described to me in detail and then I was asked to go to London alone to mount a letter bomb and small time-bomb campaign to try to resurrect some credibility for the IRA. I agreed to go. I was then told that above all I was NOT TO CONTACT the local IRA units in England under any circumstances for any kind of support, finance, intelligence or materials – they were all assumed to be ‘riddled with informers’. And so it was that I mounted two separate London letter-bomb and time-bomb campaigns in the summer and again at Christmas of 1973 entirely alone.
In December of 1973, I discovered accidentally that another IRA unit from the Republic of Ireland had been placed in London to run a new and tougher campaign involving no-warning bomb attacks and some shootings. I left London at this point and returned to Dublin because I did not agree with some of the types of operations that this unit was going to undertake. This unit was later captured in what became known as ‘The Balcombe Street Siege’. The point to note once more was that the Army Council of the IRA did not trust local IRA units in England to mount any operations because it believed that they were wholly infiltrated by informers.
Some months later, early in 1974, the local IRA units in England had discovered one unfortunate informer, Kenneth Lennon, who had just made a statement to the National Council for Civil Liberties admitting that he was pressurised into informing against the IRA in Luton and Birmingham. Lennon gave his statement to the NCCL on Wednesday, 10th of April and by Saturday, 13th of April was found in a ditch in Surrey. He had been shot twice in the back of the head by an IRA volunteer. His execution was not formally admitted by the IRA to try to encourage a false accusation that British Special Branch had murdered him.
When local IRA units did attempt to mount an operation in Coventry seven months later on 14th of November, 1974, local IRA volunteer James McDade was killed by the premature explosion of his own bomb at a telephone exchange. Following this disaster, and when McDade’s various funeral arrangements were disrupted by both the British Home Secretary and various local council orders, his body was eventually flown to Dublin on Saturday afternoon, November 21st. McDade’s local IRA comrades were angered by this treatment of his corpse and funeral and on that very evening attempted once more to mount another operation proving their paramilitary abilities (and every good reason why the IRA’s Army Council had formerly not trusted them) in planting bombs in central Birmingham and endeavouring to give adequate telephone warnings of same. The operation was, again, a disaster and murdered twenty-one people and injured 182 others.
It is highly likely that the local IRA units in the midlands were ‘riddled with informers’ by November 1974 and that, as some of the relatives of those murdered on the night have begun to believe, one or more informers had already tipped off Special Branch about the intended bombings.
Following this terroristic mass murder, the IRA’s Army Council chose to lie and to deny responsibility for the bombing and allowed the rumour to go abroad that a ‘rogue’ element might have carried out the operation. Liars and mass murderers…
One detail at the time of the bombing should have disproved these lies – the belated telephone warnings received that evening by two Birmingham newspapers included the secret IRA code word which had been originated and communicated by me to The Press Association in London the previous summer – “Double X”. This code word was a closely guarded secret and was only used by IRA units operating with the sanction and under the command of the IRA Army Council’s Director of Operations. The Birmingham bombers used the code word twice.
When I was later arrested and on remand awaiting trial in a small top security wing of Brixton Prison in 1975-76, a London Irish criminal was suddenly brought into the high security landing even though his charges were not serious. He was a huge man fit to pass as a Russian weight-lifter and introduced himself to me immediately as ‘Bullet-proof Jack Tierney’ who had indeed been a ‘Strong Man’ contestant around London for many years lifting huge, heavy barrels above his head. He removed his top to reveal five bullet wounds across his back – he had survived a murder attempt and gained the nickname ‘Bullet-proof Jack’. He ingratiated himself with me and got all kinds of favours from the prison warders which he offered to share with me. He later admitted to me that he had been pressurised into informing about Irish/republican activities in the London area for some years, and that he had been asked to spend time with me in Brixton prison as an informer to help a number of small charges he faced. This was another indication that informers were prevalent in Irish circles in England in the early 1970s.
I was later sentenced in 1976 and moved to Wormwood Scrubs after my trial. At the end of 1977, after I had already resigned from the IRA, I met a number of the so-called ‘Birmingham Bombers’ on ‘D’ wing of Wormwood Scrubs who had been wrongfully convicted. Some of them told me that during their period on remand in Winson Green prison (where they had been brutally attacked by prison warders and inmates), they discovered early on that one of the actual Birmingham bombers was on remand with them on conspiracy charges and had threatened them that if they mentioned his name, they and their families would suffer. They told me he was ‘Mick’ Murray. He sat in the dock with them during their trial at Lancaster Crown Court, refused to recognise the court, did not utter a word and got nine years imprisonment there, after which the jury was informed that he had earlier received a concurrent twelve years at Birmingham Crown Court for conspiracy also.
Murray arrived on ‘D’ Wing of Wormwood Scrubs in 1977 and spent a few months there. Some of the IRA prisoners who were still talking to me (the majority had decided to ‘blank’ me for resigning from the IRA and for apologising to my victims) warned me that Murray wanted me murdered in my cell to prevent me from becoming an informer. I went to see Murray – he was a very big man, broad shouldered and an ignorant and bullying bastard. He did not proceed with his plan to murder me.
Murray and his fellow bombers were fully sanctioned by the IRA Army Council and – contrary to another lie uttered by Army Council member Daithi O’Conaill that anti-civilian bombers would be ‘court-martialled and executed’ – were never likely to be subjected to any kind of punishment by the IRA for their mass murder of civilians. On the contrary, upon his release Murray was welcomed back into the IRA in Dublin and was given a van driver’s job with An Phoblacht newspaper. When he died in March, 1999, he got a tribute article in An Phoblacht edition of 25th of March and a year later a commemoration at his grave in Clonmellon, County Westmeath. No mention was made of his mass murder of civilians.
Michael Hayes – or ‘Jungle Jim’ to respect his attire in South Dublin (although he did not appear to have been included in the delegation to train FARC in Colombia along with Connolly, Monaghan and McCauley) – who has recently admitted his involvement in the Birmingham bombings clearly did not suffer any IRA court martial or execution either.
Surprisingly for someone who has admitted the mass murder of civilians in a European democracy, Hayes is not subject to extradition to face his victims’ relatives. If he had admitted the terrorist murders of American citizens, he would already have been ‘renditioned’ to Guantanamo. If he had admitted the terrorist murders of Israeli citizens, he would likely already have received a visit from Mossad.
Worst of all, the silly judge at Murray’s trial alongside the unfortunate ‘Birmingham Six’, congratulated Murray for his ‘soldierly bearing and silence’ – [Link here] – who would want to admit the mass murder of 21 civilians and the maiming of 182 more and suffer twenty-one life sentences and many more years in prison? His silence was entirely self-centered.
For a decade now, millions of pounds sterling have been poured into Northern Ireland as ‘peace dividends’ including to projects originated and managed by Sinn Fein/IRA.
Meanwhile, The Bad Friday Agreement has ignored the victims of violence, has secured them no truth, no prosecutions of mass murderers, no funds to pursue legal or court actions against those who have escaped justice for heinous crimes of terror. We have the spectacle of Birmingham relatives crowd-funding for legal aid and Regent’s Park relatives doing much the same.
How could it ever have come about that paramilitaries are laughing all the way to (and from) the Northern Banks financed by millions of British Government pounds, while victims’ relatives are denied funding for legal actions and justice?
How is it that the formerly prophetic voices of the Christian churches have been silent on these most grave injustices, while constantly pressuring the DUP and anyone else to ‘make a deal at all costs’ with Sinn Fein/IRA?
The Bad Friday Agreement may need to be re-visited to re-balance the scales of justice in favour of victims.
Don’t be waiting on the sectarian Pat Finucane Centre to research any of the IRA’s thousands of crimes against humanity, human rights and civil rights – it exists solely to point a politically biased and sectarian finger at the British government. Its funding should be withdrawn and given to a human rights’ organisation that is truly independent and non-sectarian.
Time perhaps to found The Edgar Graham Human Rights Centre?
Perhaps one of its first investigations might be the IRA’s mass murder of civilians in Birmingham in 1974 – not already any part of Sinn Fein/IRA equality and human rights project – and whether sufficient cause exists to send any remaining IRA leader(s) to The International Criminal Court of the The Hague which has full jurisdiction to prosecute any individual for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
[Below, a page from Paddy Hill’s book referencing me, and after that a page from Gerry Conlon’s book, also referencing me.]