Recently, BBC North West’s Inside Out programme conducted an investigation into the 1993 Warrington bombing. Ending the police’s embarrassment of not catching the killers of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry was, seemingly, the motivation. Inside Out speculates that the perpetrators of the lethal bombing were Jan Taylor and, Red Action member, Patrick Hayes. Inside Out asks that when the police were looking for Irish suspects; should they have been looking for a rogue IRA active service unit made up of Englishmen.
The documentary’s evidence supporting their claim leaves some questions. First is the linking of the bin bombing and gas works bombing in Warrington to the Harrods bin bombing and the bombing of a gas works in Tyneside. They are linked by target but, it is also implied, by suspects. The Tyneside gas works was bombed by an Englishman; the Warrington gas works by Irishmen. That the Warrington gas bombing was conducted by Irishmen wasn’t mentioned in the documentary. Partially based upon this faulty evidence the programme reasons that the Warrington bin bombing was carried out by the Harrods bin bombers: Hayes and Taylor. The film insinuates that English IRA active service units were attacking similar targets but Warrington gas bombing was done by Irishmen.
Another problem with the same targets, same nationality of suspects theory is that Hayes and Taylor were also convicted of bombing a train. Where does the train attack fit in to Inside Out’s story?
Inside Out uses Hayes’ Red Action membership as more evidence of guilt. Firstly, the programme doesn’t make it clear that only Hayes was a Red Action member, Taylor wasn’t. The programme also points out Red Action favoured “chicken-box bombs”, like the one used by Hayes and Taylor. The fact is that Red Action has never been found to have bombed anything. The implication is that Red Action had a bombing campaign but they did nothing of the sort. Why would Red Action favour a certain bomb when they had nothing to do with bombing?
Red Action is painted as a shadowy organisation. Whilst certainly secretive it was hardly unreachable. The Independent, ITV and the BBC had all interviewed Red Action. The organisation was very openly pro-IRA, it was on the front of its newspaper and on its stickers; it wasn’t a secret. It was not the underground network Inside Out would have us believe.
Another claim is that the (or these?) English IRA active service unit were rogue or not in the loop. It is pointed to that the IRA was already at the peace table so why would they need to continue bombing? Furthermore, the polices’ claim that the IRA didn’t use the correct code words is their evidence of the bombers being rogue. But the IRA disputed that the wrong codes were used at the time. It’s a ‘he said; she said’ situation in which the truth may never be known.
Inside Out’s own evidence can be used to dispute the rogue unit idea. To provide evidence that there was a campaign to bomb certain targets in England they discuss how the IRA’s top man in England was caught with a list of targets, including gas works, and semtex. If the orders were coming from the IRA’s leading volunteer in England how were the active service units rogue or acting alone?
The evidence presented implying the guilt of Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor is hardly clear cut. The idea that English IRA units were bombing the same targets isn’t true and the idea they were rogue has little evidence. I believe the documentary provides more questions than answers. The simplest being what was the purpose of documentary? And why now?
Charge of the New Red Brigade, The Independent. This article asks who Red Action are following Hayes’ arrest.
Violence with Violence, World in Action (ITV) investigates anti-fascist groups.