John Kinsella, who has always protested his innocence was told yesterday that Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, had been given new evidence that could cast doubt on his conviction.
He was sentenced in 1994 for his part in the destruction of the gas works. No one was killed in the huge fire ball that followed the blast, but a policeman was shot - and survived - during the IRA cell's subsequent getaway.
Kinsella, whose wife, Audrey, and two children live in Nottingham, was convicted of handling explosives with intent to endanger life, but he always insisted he was duped. He buried a bag containing Semtex and firearms but he has always maintained he believed it contained only stolen silver. The fact that he buried it on an allotment under a spot where bonfires were regularly built has suggested to growing numbers of observers that he did not know it contained explosives.
The breakthrough for him and his lawyers came late last year when Pairic MacFhloinn, the IRA terrorist who shot the policeman during the getaway, gave a statement to detectives confirming that he tricked Kinsella into hiding the munitions.
Last night Mrs Kinsella said: "This is wonderful news. John has been through hell but perhaps now the light is at the end of the tunnel."
The Independent first drew attention to Kinsella's case in 1994. Since then, the Sinn Fein prisoner of war department in Dublin has confirmed that it does not regard him as one of its activists. And evidence supporting him grew when it emerged that the IRA army council had given MacFhloinn permission to clear Kinsella - something done before only in the cases of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four.
The Home Office last night confirmed that his case had been referred to the Court of Appeal.Reuse content