Secrets behind the infamous IRA pub bombings code word revealed

Inquest jury told how the code was invented;desc_url:;oid:16045456;token:undefined;videoTitle:QmlybWluZ2hhbSBwdWIgYm9tYmluZ3Mgd2FybmluZyBjYWxs;safetyMeta:3&service=ampVideo#amp=1

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.

Former IRA bomber Shane Paul O’Doherty: Brain Lawless/PA Wire


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.

Martin McGuinness(Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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.

This is the log of the fatal bomb waring made to The Birmingham Post and Mail on November 21st, 1974

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.


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.

Pictures of a Provisional IRA press conference in 1972, left to right: Martin McGuinness, then said to be the officer in charge of the Provisional IRA in Derry, David O’Connell, tactician officer of the IRA, Sean MacStiofain, the IRA Chief of Staff and Seamus Toomey, officer in charge of the IRA in Belfast.

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.

A British paratrooper takes a captured youth from the crowd on Bloody Sunday, when British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights March, murdering 14 innocent civilians, on January 30, 1972 in Derry, North of Ireland (Photo by Getty Images)


“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.”

No 10 Downing Street was targeted in IRA letter bomb campaign in 1973


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.

Oxford Street, London. In 1973 IRA bomber Shane O’Doherty planted his first timed bomb outside a basement store there.

“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.

An Old BT telephone box

“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.

This is the log of the fatal bomb warning made to The Birmingham Post and Mail on November 21st, 1974. The caller gave the codeword ‘Double X’ though it was later crossed out by detectives for security purposes


“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?”

Former Post and Mail employee Ian Copper who took the warning call about the Birmingham pub bombings, pictured with the original logbook


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.

Martin McGuinness pictured with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams during the annual Sinn Féin Party Conference in Dublin in 1998


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.

Mick Murry who was named as one of the Birmingham pub bombers by anonymous Witness O at the new inquest into the deaths of the 21 victims

“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.

O’Doherty said in his inquest statement that he met Mick Murray in Wormwood Scrubs prison in London. (Photo by F. Brooks/Fox Photos/Getty Images)


“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.

Former IRA bomber Shane Paul O’Doherty: Brain Lawless/PA Wire

“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.”

Former IRA director of intelligence Kieran Conway gave evidence by video link to the Birmingham pub bombings inquest


* 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

Top dissident republicans taken off the streets

British Internment alive and ongoing in the 32 Counties of Ireland !!!

THREE of the North’s most senior dissident republicans have been taken off the streets after a second Belfast city centre attack. With a manhunt under way on both sides of the border for a firebomber injured by his own device, the three dissident chiefs were charged on Tuesday with an array of serious offences.

Colin Duffy, Alec McCrory and Harry Fitzsimmons all have a history of republican activism dating back to the Provisional IRA. Dissident republicans have been particularly active in the run-up to Christmas with shots fired at police in North and West Belfast, a bomb left in an entertainment area of the city on one of the busiest nights of the year and an attempt on Monday to firebomb a city centre shop. The trio, in their forties and fifties, were arrested on Sunday, 48 hours after a bomb exploded in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter while it was packed with Christmas parties. Duffy is accused of IRA membership and plotting to murder security-force members. McCrory and Fitzimmons are charged with attempting to murder police officers travelling on Crumlin Road in North Belfast on December 5. All three are also charged with conspiracy to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life and belonging to a proscribed organisation. McCrory and Fitzisimmons face further charges of aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm. The alleged offences cover a period between January 1 and December 16 this year.

Amid heavy security at Belfast Magistrates Court, supporters of the three accused packed the public gallery on Tuesday. At one stage the defendents declined to stand up as some of the charges were put to them. A detective said he could connect them to the charges and no applications for bail were made during the short hearing. The trio waved at friends who clapped as they were remanded in custody to appear again by videolink in four weeks’ time. Meanwhile, two arrests were made outside the court complex as tensions heightened briefly. There were minor scuffles amid a heavy police presence at the Oxford Street exit as supporters of Duffy, McCrory and Fitzimmions left the building. North Belfast men Daniel Lundy and Aidan Fergusion, both from Ardoyne, were arrested and taken to Musgrave Police Station and charged with assaulting police, disorderly behaviour and resisting police. They were released on bail to appear before Belfast Magistrates Court on January 13.

With many thanks to: The Irish News.

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