IRA Bomb Birmingham
The bombings at Guildford , where five were killed and 65 injured, put untold pressures on the security forces to bring those responsible to justice. There was a climate of cloying fear. The Provisional IRA’s campaign was a desperate attempt to bring their struggle to the British people. In doing so, it created an equal desperation to stop them. Justice was just one of the many casualties.
On the 21st November 1974, the IRA bombed Birmingham , causing 21 deaths and injuring 182 people. Two pubs in central Birmingham, The Mulberry Bush and The Tavern In The Town, became the scene of carnage. This was the worst bombing on the British mainland since The Troubles began and, as in Guildford , they were carried out at a time when the pubs would be at their busiest.
Six men were arrested for the atrocity: Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power, and John Walker. All had lived in Birmingham since the 1960s. All were Roman Catholic, and all, except Derry -born John Walker, were from Belfast. They were arrested on their way to Belfast , where they were to attend the funeral of James McDade, a member of the IRA who died while trying to bomb Coventry . By chance they were stopped and searched by Special Branch, who, upon learning of the bombings in Birmingham, took the men into custody for forensic tests.
From then on their fate was sealed. When initially stopped, they never disclosed the real reason why they were heading back to Belfast, understandable given the strength of feeling against the IRA at the time. This would be a lynchpin in the case against them, and though held together by circumstantial evidence, the conviction stuck. Forensic tests provided contradictory results – those that concluded Hill and Power had tested positive for traces of explosives were preferred by the judge. All received life sentences. And all, as subsequent appeals and campaigns would prove, were innocent. They would not be granted their freedom until 1991 , all the while the real bombers were at large.
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