Relatives of Birmingham pub bombing victims reject apology

Twenty-one people were killed when bombs exploded in 1974

Relatives of Birmingham pub bombing victims reject apology

Michael Hayes is seen in the BBC documentary | Image: BBC

Relatives of those killed in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings have rejected an apology over the IRA attack as 'gutless and spineless'.

Twenty-one people were killed when bombs exploded in two city centre pubs.

Six people were wrongfully convicted of the crime, their convictions overturned in 1991.

No-one else has ever been convicted in relation to the bombings.

69-year-old Michael Hayes, who now lives in south Dublin, was questioned about the bombings but refused to comment on his role.

He told a BBC documentary the bombs had not been intended to kill people, adding that there had been a crucial eight-minute delay before police were warned of the bombs' location.

Once he became aware of the death toll from the two bombs, he personally defused a third bomb left on Birmingham's Hagley Road, Mr Hayes said.

He has apologised, saying: "My apologies and my heartfelt sympathy to all of you, for a terrible tragic loss that you've been put through - and for all these years you've been trying to find closure, I hope at last God will be merciful and bring you closure.

"And I apologise, not only for myself, I apologise for all of the republicans who had no intention of hurting anybody and sympathise with you".

However, the families of the victims - who have campaigned for years for the truth to be made public - called Mr Hayes "gutless", saying they did not believe him.

A mass of rubble, the remnants of the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham, one of the two pubs in Birmingham where bombs exploded | Image: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine died in the bombing, said Mr Hayes had admitted nothing.

"He reckons he'd rather die the be an informer but he's more than happy to take collective responsibility for the murder of 21 innocents... He's a coward, he's got no spine and he's gutless - and I wouldn't believe a word he says."

Jane Hambleton, whose sister died in the attack, added: "He just spouted the age-old old story: the IRA never wanted to harm people.

"What do they think planting bombs in pubs in Birmingham, in shopping centres like Warrington and Omagh... what sort of result did they expect?".

Paul Bodman, whose father Stanley was killed, said Mr Hayes chose his words carefully.

"We're getting closer to the truth. He's been primed about what to say. He's been told what to say, that's come across quite clearly.

"He's leading us down a cul-de-sac."