An IRA spokesman, in an interview in Belfast, said two clear warnings of the bombs had been given, but on this and other occasions police had carried out a policy of not acting in time.
Asked what he felt about the death of three-year-old Johnathan Ball, he said: 'Horror. Exactly the same emotion as went through the minds of the volunteers who planted the bombs. I am furious that there are those within the British authorities who have played this cynical game for almost 12 months.'
But police said the claim was a cynical ploy to divert blame. Brian Baister, Cheshire's assistant chief constable, said: 'Yes, a warning was given half-an-hour before, but no mention was made of Warrington. If the IRA think they can pass on their responsibility for this terrible act by issuing such a nonsensical statement, they have sadly underestimated the understanding of the British public.'
Police said there was only one call, to the Samaritans in Liverpool, pointing to a bomb outside an unspecified Boots store. But the IRA spokesman said that precise locations had been given to the Samaritans and Merseyside police.
Earlier, Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, said he would conduct a review of security in Warrington, which has been bombed twice by the IRA within four weeks, after local authority leaders and MPs pressed him for money to install surveillance cameras.
Colin Parry, the father of a 12-year-old boy who it was feared would die from his injuries, said there was a glimmer of hope for his son. Tim Parry's chances remained slim, but he had improved enough to be moved to a neuro-surgical unit in Liverpool, where a brain scan revealed he did not need an immediate operation.
The Irish cabinet in Dublin is today expected to consider sending a senior minister to Johnathan Ball's funeral, to underline Irish revulsion at the explosions. His family's approval would first be requested.
Letters, page 19