Jailed man innocent, says bomber

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An IRA bomber serving 35 years for blowing up Warrington gasworks is to give evidence that could free another man jailed for the same attack.

Pairic MacFhloinn, who planted the bomb before shooting a policeman three times during his foiled getaway, has told the Home Office that he is ready to make a statement clearing John Kinsella, an Irishman who campaigners argue was duped into playing a minor role in the bombing.

Kinsella, 51, a petty crook, was described as the quartermaster for the cell which blew up the gasworks in February 1993. He was sentenced to 20 years, later reduced to 16, for hiding a bag of Semtex and weapons for the bombers, MacFhloinn, his nephew Denis Kinsella, and a third man who was never caught.

But John Kinsella has always insisted he was told the bag contained stolen silver and he did not know the people for whom he was hiding it were IRA volunteers. To back up his claim, supported by a growing number of MPs, he points to the fact that he buried the bag under the site of a bonfire on an allotment near his home in Nottingham. He was nowhere near Warrington before or during the attack.

In an interview with The Independent from prison two years ago, he said: "Would I really have buried a bag under a bonfire if I knew it contained explosives?" Under questioning, when told what the bag contained, he immediately led police to it because it was close to a children's playground.

The Home Office confirmed yesterday that MacFhloinn had asked his solicitors to arrange a meeting at Full Sutton prison near York, where it is expected he will make a formal statement to police.

Kinsella's family have been waiting since March 1995 for MacFhloinn to agree to a meeting. It was then that he sent a letter to Kinsella's supporters which said: "John is not a member of the IRA and has never been. He had absolutely no idea what myself and my comrade ... were involved in. He never suspected that we were Republicans."

MacFhloinn's letter said that he and his comrade, who was not captured, used both Kinsellas, although it was Denis who introduced them to John.

It went on: "We realised that he [John] was a petty criminal who would do anything for money. As we wished to safely conceal some material, (the same items that were later used against John in court), we asked him if he would bury them for us. Reluctantly, he agreed, but only after we agreed to pay him pounds 200 on condition that he would not look at the items that were sealed, and securely wrapped, and placed in a hold-all bag."

It is understood the IRA Army Council gave MacFhloinn clearance to release his letter, something done before only in the cases of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. The IRA's Prisoner of War department in Dublin has repeatedly released lists of its volunteers held in British jails; Kinsella's name is always conspicuous by its absence.

The letter was shown to officials from the Home Office's C3 department, which examines potential miscarriages of justice, last year but it could not be accepted as the formal evidence needed to have Kinsella's case referred back to the Court of Appeal; only a formal statement would suffice.

"This is wonderful news," said Kinsella's wife, Audrey, yesterday.