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The Troubles cast a shadow over Brexit
December 2018 / January 2019

John Ware (right) confronts Michael Patrick Reilly in a recent programme for ITV’s “Exposure” (© ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

It shouldn’t have been. Although four of those five prime suspects were in the Irish Republic and beyond UK jurisdiction, the prime suspect for Gavin’s fellow bomb planter was living in Belfast. His name is Michael Reilly. He is now aged 63.

In 2012, at the behest of the families, “Operation Castors” reviewed the pub bombings file. “We are assessing what future opportunities we might have to resolve the case,” said a police spokesman. I can think of one golden “opportunity” that appears not to have been taken — the use of lawful police subterfuge aimed at getting “alongside” a suspect by contriving a set of circumstances in the hope that it might trigger an admission or provide new leads. West Midlands Police will neither confirm nor deny that such a plan was ever given serious consideration in Reilly’s case, but I’m doubtful that it was.

The opportunity to construct a long-term plan around Reilly, his friends, habits, and lifestyle has been available to the police for a quarter of a century. He has lived and worked in Belfast since his release from jail in Birmingham for his part in a series of fire-bombings that pre-dated the pub bombings. His solicitor says he denies any involvement in the pub bombings, and “does not intend to respond any further” to my “unfounded allegations”.

I do not accuse Reilly of planting the bombs. I am, however, satisfied he is one and the same man who twice confessed to the former MP and minister Chris Mullin that he did. In 1986 Mullin wrote an excellent book arguing that the Birmingham Six were innocent, based partly on conversations with those who admitted their guilt to him, on condition he never named them while they were alive. In Reilly’s case, he provided Mullin with meticulous detail about the bombing operation.

Today Mullin still refuses to confirm or deny Reilly was that man, cryptically referring to him only as the Young Planter. “I haven’t named this individual and, so long as he is alive, I will not do so,” says Mullin.

Reilly, however, has been West Midlands Police’s prime suspect for Mullin’s “Young Planter” since 1993 when they interviewed him three times in Belfast. Beyond denying his involvement in the pub bombings, he declined to comment.

However, I discovered from a 1975 police statement that Reilly does appear to have known there were going to be bombings. A statement from his father Henry discloses that his son had warned him to stay out of Birmingham city centre that night. When Reilly was questioned about this, his statement records him admitting he knew “something was going to happen”. In his book, Mullin quotes his young planter as telling a similar story.

Had the West Midlands Police devised a plan to get alongside Reilly — even monitoring his conversations at home if necessary — they might well have learned more about how he knew that “something was going to happen”, who played what role, perhaps implicating the other prime suspects still at liberty in Dublin, and of course any further evidence either corroborating — or undermining — their case against him.
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December 20th, 2018
8:12 PM
We can rely on Gareth Peirce and her indefatigable Fifth Column to put right everything that is wrong, no matter what the cost.

December 6th, 2018
11:12 PM
In reply to nobby, who states 'you cannot compare a soldier who made a mistake in the heat of the moment......' my father was shot dead in cold blood by members of the MRF, a unit of the British Army who drove around Belfast in plain clothes in unmarked cars 'executing' civilians. Eventually this unit were disbanded as they were deemed to be 'out of control'. Obviously we expect these soldiers to be tried for the murder of our Dad. And why not? Wouldn't you want to see justice done if you were in our position?

John Ware
December 6th, 2018
7:12 PM
Nobby: The (regular) army killed 160 civilians, and 121 republican terrorists (Table 18, p 1561, Lost Lives). Most of those civilians were shot in the early and most violent phase of the conflict, and many may well have died in cross fire (including, I suspect, some of the 11 shot in Ballymurphy at the start of internment in August 1971). I trust you noticed my comment that ".....whatever crimes soldiers may have committed, people will struggle to see the remotest moral equivalence between the British Army and the IRA." John Ware

December 6th, 2018
10:12 AM
on the whole I agree with the solution to the legacy of unsolved killings put forward in this article.However there are a few points I would make.Firstly the author gives the impression that a large majority of the British Armys victims were civilians.In fact the army killed 149 terrorists and 152 civilians,roughly 50-50.Secondly you cannot compare a soldier who makes a mistake in the heat of the moment with a terrorist who carries out a pre planned cold bloded murder.Look at the Kingsmill massacre where the IRA stopped a minibus carrying workers home from a building site,seperated the protestants from the Catholic,whose name they knew,and then shot the Protestants.Nobody has ever been prosecuted for that either.I would be interested to know what proportion of Terrorist murders were successfully prosecuted,I suspect it is not as high as this article gives the impression of.Finally how can it be just to prosecute an old soldier who made one terrible mistake 40 years ago when the likes of Gerry Adams and Martin Mcguiness were/are allowed to pose as respectable elder statesmen.

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