22/05/2006

Birmingham Six's McIlkenny dies in Dublin

One of the men wrongly imprisoned for IRA bombings in the 1970s has died in a Dublin hospital.

Richard McIlkenny, 73, was born in Belfast but had moved to Birmingham in the early 70's.

He was one of six Irishmen arrested in Birmingham in 1974, and sentenced to life imprisonment for pub bombings in the city which killed 21 people and injuring over 160.

Mr McIlkenny, was interrogated by police for three days until he signed a false confession admitting to the crime.

On November 24, 1974, he appeared in court alongside Patrick Hill, Gerry Hunter, Hugh Callaghan, Billy Power and Johnny Walker, and was remanded in custody.

During the trial the men claimed their confessions had been beaten out of them, however the court did not believe them.

In August 1975 the Birmingham Six were sentenced to life in prison on the basis of their false confessions, where they each served 16 years in prison.

They were denied the opportunity to appeal the sentence and were forced to wait until 1987, when, in the light of new evidence, their case was referred to the Court of Appeal, where it was rejected.

This sparked off mass public protests throughout Ireland and England, which kept the case alive until 1990 when new forensic evidence proved that their confessions had been tampered with.

The convictions were quashed in 1991 and Mr McIlkenny returned to Ireland, where he settled near Dublin.

He died yesterday afternoon at he James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

(EF/GB)

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