Inquest jury told how the code was invented
THE infamous IRA Double X code word used on the night of the horrific Birmingham pub bombings was the invention of an 18-year-old IRA bomber, the inquest jury heard.
The code word was made up by Shane Paul O’Doherty and was a closely guarded secret known only to few, including Martin McGuinness.
O’’Doherty mounted a one-man bombing campaign in London in the summer and Christmas of 1973.
He was later convicted of 31 counts of causing explosions with intent to endanger life and jailed for life but ultimately released after serving just 14 years.
The caller gave the codeword ‘Double X’ though it was later crossed out by detectives for security purposes
The Double X codeword was used when one of the bombers called the Birmingham Post and Mail moments before devastating explosions in The Mulberry Bush, on the ground floor of The Rotunda, and the nearby Tavern In The Town on November 21, 1974.
The blasts left 21 dead and 220 injured.
A recreation of the words spoken to Post and Mail telephonist at 8.11pm on that night can be heard at the top of this story.
The inquest, which on Monday, April 1, enters its sixth week, is the culmination of years of campaigning by relatives, backed by the Birmingham Mail for a full investigation into what happened.
INQUESTS INTO 1974 BIRMINGHAM PUB BOMBINGS START
O’Doherty, who eventually quit the terror group and says he now works to divert young people from armed struggle, outlined his IRA activities in a statement presented to the inquest.
He said that in June 1973, in Derry, he was injured when a crude letter bomb he was making exploded. He was taken for medical treatment by McGuinness who O’Doherty said was then a member of the Derry Brigade and of the ruling IRA Army Council.
In Dublin McGuinness introduced him to another member of the Army Council, Kevin Mallon “ a legendary figure in the IRA” who at the time was the sole Director of Operations for IRA actions in England. O’Doherty said he later came to fear Mallon and described him as “pyschopath.”
In the statement he said: “I was recruited to mount a one-man bombing campaign in London. I was an eager volunteer, with the events on Bloody Sunday still fresh in my memory.
“I flew to London with only a backpack, which contained detonators and packets of gelatine explosive.
“I was told by Kevin Mallon not to trust local IRA units under any circumstances in England as they were infiltrated with informants. This is why the IRA sent over their own volunteers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to execute high profile operations.
“In hindsight, the IRA used young impressionable kids like me to commit bombing campaigns. We were used as cannon fodder. I do not think that the IRA Army Council, specifically Kevin Mallon and Martin McGuinness, expected me to return from London.”
He added: “I rented a flat in Earl’s Court. I created a cover for myself by telling people that I was studying at King’s College, London. In reality I was making letter bombs and sending them to specified targets and planting small time bombs around central London.”
He sent letter bombs to Number 10 Downing Street, and to the then Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling. Later he was contacted about making and planting time bombs and a “courier” supplied him with materials, but gave him no information or advice about making warning calls.
The first time bomb he planted was in a basement shop in Oxford Street. He than made two warning calls and was surprised to see “absolutely no police activity” as a result.
“I realised that the police in a city as big as London were probably receiving many bomb warning calls, a lot of which were hoaxes, which meant my call might have sounded like another hoax.”
In the event, the shop bomb only partly exploded and there were no injuries.
“ As a result, I decided a code word was necessary to distinguish my calls from all of the hoax calls. I came up with the code word ‘Double X’. lt does not have any meaning behind it.
“I needed to establish the code word so that the receiver of a call would know that ‘Double X’ indicated a serious bomb warning. I did not tell this code word to the police. Rather, to establish its use, I informed the Press Association.
“To demonstrate that I was genuine, I informed them of two small bombs in cigarette packets that I had placed on the petrol tanks of cars in Chelsea, which I set to explode shortly after the call.
“ I continued to use the ‘Double X’ code word in London throughout the summer of 1973 and during the Christmas period whenever I planted a time bomb.
He added: “Once I had established its use, I informed the IRA Army Council about it. I told Kevin Mallon and Martin McGuinness. I never told anyone else. As far as I am aware, it was not known to anyone else.
“I do not believe anyone else outside the IRA Army Council would have been aware of the ‘Double X” warning code. lt was a closely guarded secret.
“It only occurred to me much later when reading about the IRA Army Council’s denial of responsibility for the Birmingham pub bombings that the operation must have been authorised because the bombers used the ‘Double X’ code word.
“The IRA comprised of many different groups. Some were accepting of the use of coded warnings. Others would have been happy with no warning calls being made at all. They would say things such as “f*** the warnings. Why give warnings to those bastards?”
O’Doherty said he was later asked to travel to Brussels to shoot and kill an arms dealer who was alleged to have betrayed an IRA arms shipment, but he did not go through with it.
“ Afterwards, when I met Kevin Mallon and told him that I had not killed the arms dealer, he pulled a gun on me, put it against my head and threatened to shoot me for failing to follow orders. I was not to think, he told me, but merely to do. After this, I stayed clear of Kevin Mallon because I thought he was a psychopath. I reported Mallon’s behaviour toward me to Martin McGuinness.”
O’Doherty said he was arrested in May 1975 during an IRA ceasefire and spent four months in a prison in Belfast before being flown to London to be questioned by detectives.
Martin McGuinness went on to become Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland for ten years from 2007 – 2017. He died from ill health two months after stepping down, aged 66.
O’Doherty eventually met Mick Murray, the man who is said to have used the code word he had invented in the hopelessly inadequate and ambiguous bomb warning call on that dreadful night.
He said: “I had no direct knowledge about the Birmingham pub bombings, or about IRA operations in Birmingham at all, but did later meet the (wrongly convicted) Birmingham Six in jail.
“In Wormwood Scrubs in late 1977 or early 1978 I also met a man called Mick Murray who was described to me by other IRA prisoners as one of the actual Birmingham bombers.
“I had no direct knowledge of an informer being involved in the Birmingham pub bombings, but as I have said, it was generally believed by the IRA’s Army Council that local IRA units in England were riddled with informers.
“ I fully understand that making a coded warning call did not exempt me, or others, from moral culpability when making and planting bombs.”
During his 14 years behind bars he thought much about his actions.
He said: “I am providing the information in this statement because I believe I owe it to the victims of IRA bombings that they deserve the reparation of truth and justice.
“Once I had realised that my actions were wrong, I spent one year campaigning for the right to apologise to my victims by letter while still imprisoned. In late 1977, I informed the IRA that I was no longer a volunteer and I published a letter in the press in February 1978 calling on the IRA to cease its armed struggle and to enter democratic politics and since then I have had no affiliation.
“I now do what I can to warn young people against armed struggle to achieve civil and human rights or to advance political causes. I believe the IRA’s armed struggle amounted to a crime against humanity in its willingness to sacrifice civilian lives both in Northern Ireland and in Britain.”
* O’Doherty made the statement in February 2018. The inquest jury has since from former IRA director of intelligence Kieran Conway that the IRA was responsible and had to take responsibility although he claimed the Birmingham bombings had not been approved in advance by the IRA Army Council.
With many thanks to: Birmingham Mail and Andy Richards for the original story
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