West Belfast man Michael Patrick Reilly denies Birmingham bomb allegations

James Francis Gavin (left) and Michael Patrick Reilly (right) have been named as the prime suspects in the Birmingham pub bombings. Picture courtesy of ITV

A SOLICITOR for a west Belfast man named last night in a TV documentary as one of two prime suspects in the 1974 IRA Birmingham pub bombings, said naming his client in such a manner was "akin to trial by media".

The ITV Exposure programme, 'The Hunt for the Birmingham Bombers', named Michael Patrick Reilly and James Francis Gavin, a former British soldier who has since died, as allegedly being involved.

According to the documentary-makers Mr Reilly born in England but was living in Birmingham at the time of the 1974 bombings.

He was convicted of conspiracy and causing explosions in relation to other IRA bomb attacks and came to live in Northern Ireland after his release from jail.

The explosions at the Tavern in the Town and Mulberry Bush killed 21 people and injured another 220 and led to one of the most infamous miscarriages of justice in English legal history after six innocent men were wrongly convicted for the attacks.

Their convictions were quashed in 1991 after a long battle by campaigners, including MP and journalist Chris Mullin.

Nobody else has been brought to justice for the attacks.

The programme referenced interviews carried out by Mr Mullin, who interviewed an anonymous source who claimed to be involved in the IRA bombing of the West Midlands for his book Error of Judgement, published in 1986.

While he has never revealed his sources, the ITV team, led by journalist John Ware, claimed that Mr Reilly was among the chief suspects.

Last night's documentary, which was not previously scheduled to be shown in Northern Ireland but aired as a late listing on UTV, saw John Ware approach Mr Reilly and question him about his alleged role.

Mr Ware is seen confronting him in the underground carpark of a west Belfast supermarket where he denied being responsible for the atrocity.

In a statement last night a lawyer for Mr Reilly said his client denied any involvement in the bombings.

"These allegations are untrue and without any foundation," said Padraig Ó Muirigh.

"The naming of my client in this manner is akin to trial by media.

"My client has not been convicted of any offence in relation to the 1974 pub bombings," he said.

"The best place for these serious allegations to be tested is within the criminal justice system and not via a television programme.

"My client is also very concerned that the identification of him in this manner has potential implications for the safety of both him and his family".

Julie Hambleton, whose 18-year-old sister Maxine was killed in the blasts is seen breaking down in tears when the confrontation between John Ware and Mr Reilly is shown to her.

Maxine Hambleton (18) who died in the 1974 Birmingham bombing.

Ms Hambleton said she 'simply' wanted whoever was responsible to be brought to justice.

"When people ask you how'd you feel if you met them or saw them, you can never answer that question", she added.

The Court of Appeal ruled last week that a coroner had been right to exclude identifying alleged perpetrators of the attacks in fresh inquests.

Julie Hambleton and her Mother Margaret from campaign group Justice for the 21.

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