By Adam Shaw
The British Army has been called in to search for fresh evidence relating to the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings.
Soldiers will use specialist equipment to look for forensic clues in a building next to the former Tavern in the Town, the scene of one of the bombings.
It is believed that remnants of explosives might have been lodged in plaster behind a false ceiling. West Midlands Police has already carried out initial forensic tests and experts continue to examine the findings as they look for any bomb residue or fragments.
The tests come as a result of a joint plea from campaign group Justice4the21 and Paddy Hill, who, as part of the group known as the Birmingham Six, was wrongly-accused of carrying out the attacks.
An Army spokesman confirmed that it would be assisting West Midlands Police in an ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, a mutual assistance programme between the gardaí and British police forces will result in an interview with former IRA commander Kieran Conway in relation to the bombings.
Mr Conway, who now works as a solicitor in Dublin, has voluntarily agreed to meet a Special Detective Unit in the Irish capital where he will answer questions prepared by West Midlands Police.
Mr Conway was the IRA’s chief of intelligence at the time of the atrocities, though he played no part in them and has always expressed his regret at what happened.
In his recently published book, “Southside Provisional”, he recounts that, at first, he believed the Provisional IRA had deliberately targeted civilians.
“I was appalled and personally ashamed of the bombing, which went against everything we claimed to stand for, and told Dave O’Connell [Daithí O’Conaill] and Kevin Mallon exactly what I thought when we met up” he said.
“I was later told by Dave that the early indications were that the casualties were the result of yet another failure in the warning system – a succession of phone boxes, from which the warning might have been relayed, having proved to be inoperable.”
The solicitor told The Birmingham Mail that he knows who the bombers are, and he believes the police do too. He confirmed that Mick Murray, now dead, was part of the bombing team, while the man who actually planted the bombs is alive but is “in a very bad way, mentally”.
Mr Conway also stated that the IRA leadership knew “from the get-go” that the Birmingham Six were innocent.
The bombings at two central Birmingham pubs resulted in the deaths of 21 people, while more than 150 were injured.
Six innocent Northern Irishmen were convicted of the crimes but were later cleared and released after spending 15 years in prison.
The Provisional IRA was widely blamed for the attacks but it never publically admitted responsibility.