MP urges re-opening of gasworks bomb case

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The Independent Online

One of the men convicted of the 1993 Warrington gasworks bombing is the victim of "a serious miscarriage of justice'', according to an MP who is urging the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, to reopen the case.

John Kinsella is serving 16 years for possessing explosives with intent to endanger life, but claims he was tricked into hiding semtex and guns for the IRA - a claim borne out by the fact that he buried the goods under a bonfire.

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, has written to the Home Secretary urging a re-examination of the case, arguing that Kinsella was duped by the real IRA bombers.

The Independent highlighted Kinsella's case last year and was given an unprecedented assurance by Sinn Fein's prisoner-of-war department in Dublin that it did not regard him as a republican prisoner.

Since then, Pairic MacFhloinn, sentenced to 35 years for his role in the bombing, has issued a statement from prison saying: "John is not a member of the IRA and never has been.

"He had absolutely no idea what myself and my comrade were involved in. He never even suspected that we were republicans. As a republican activist, I would never permit non-volunteers to be aware of the activities I was engaged in."

It is understood MacFloinn was given permission by the IRA army council to release his statement. Permission has been given before only in the cases of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four.

Kinsella, 50, was a petty crook dealing in stolen goods and smuggled tobacco in the pubs of Nottingham. In February 1993 he was asked by a nephew, Denis Kinsella, to hide some stolen goods for two "friends", who turned out to be MacFloinn and Michael Timmins, another IRA volunteer, who was never caught.

Kinsella says that he was given a bag which he believed contained stolen silver. He says the items were wrapped and taped up in black bin liners. He buried the bag in an allotment beneath a spot used for burning rubbish.

After the bombing, in which no one was killed but a policeman was shot (by MacFhloinn), Kinsella was arrested. He had not left Nottingham, but his nephew's arrest brought him into the frame. After arrest, he voluntarily told police about the hidden bag.

In an interview with the Independent last year, he said: "As soon as I realised what the police thought was in there, I told them about it and led them to it ... That would have been OK with the stuff - silver as I thought - being buried underneath it, but when I was told it contained explosives, I was horrified. There was a children's playground next to the spot.

"It wasn't my allotment so they couldn't have traced it to me, but as soon as I realised children could be in danger, I told them and that's why I'm here".

Kinsella's sentence was reduced from 20 years to 16 on appeal. Mr Simpson says his conviction should be overturned. "His conviction under the Prevention of Terrorism Act is a grave miscarriage of justice," he says in his letter to Michael Howard.

Kinsella " is a petty thief, a fence for stolen goods, but not a terrorist".