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The truth about the ‘Birmingham Six’ IRA pub bombings could soon be heard

An inquest into the atrocity is to be reopened.

Gary Cowan, 16,in a Birmingham hospital following the 1974 bomb attack on the Tavern in the Town pub.
Gary Cowan, 16,in a Birmingham hospital following the 1974 bomb attack on the Tavern in the Town pub.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

AN INQUEST INTO the 1974 IRA pub bombings in Birmingham that killed 21 people and injured almost 200 more is to be reopened.

BBC News reports that the decision was taken after senior coroner for Birmingham & Solihull Louise Hunt found that there is a “wealth of evidence that still has not been heard”.

Among the submission heard by the coroner are allegations that West Midlands Police were aware of the potential for an attack beforehand but did not act.

The coroner heard evidence that an overheard conversation was reported to police 11 days before the attack in which men linked to the IRA were heard saying that “Birmingham would be hit next week”.

The victims were killed when two bombs were detonated in two pubs on 10 November 1974. A third bomb was found later that night but it failed to detonate.

Although the IRA never claimed responsibility for the attack, they are widely believed to have planted the bombs.

An inquest that began after the bombing was halted pending a criminal investigation.

Six innocent Irishmen convicted of the atrocity were imprisoned for 16 years before the miscarriage of justice came to light.

The six men claimed that police forced them to sign confessions after physical and psychological torture.

Birmingham pub bombings inquest Paddy Hill, one of the Birmingham Six who were wrongly convicted of the bombings. Source: Ben Birchall

After the men were released in 1991, West Midlands Police began investigating the case again but three years later it was decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute anyone.

Last year, West Midlands Police said again that unless any new evidence came to light the case would not be re-opened.

Police had argued that the coroner did not have the authority to hear the inquests but she rejected that submission.

“I have serious concerns that advanced notice of the bombs may have been available to the police and that they failed to take the necessary steps to protect life,” Hunt decided today.

Read: Today is a big day for the truth about the ‘Birmingham Six’ IRA pub bombings >

Read: On this day 24 years ago, the Birmingham Six were released >

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Rónán Duffy

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