A Belfast man faces legal action from the families of the victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombing.

He is a man from Belfast who is facing civil damages in connection with the 1974 IRA pub bombings in Birmingham.

Argaret Smith, mother of bombing victim Maxine Hambleton, filed a civil lawsuit against Martin Patrick Reilly.

Now in his sixties, he has always denied knowledge of or involvement in the bombings that killed 21 people and injured more than 200 almost five decades ago. A third bomb failed to explode and was recovered but later lost by the West Midlands Police.

His attorney, Padraig O’Muirig, told the PA: “I can confirm that a criminal case has been opened against our client.

“Our client completely rejects the plaintiff’s claims and the litigation initiated will be vigorously defended.

“My client has never been convicted of any offense related to the 1974 pub bombings.”

Mr Reilly was previously arrested in November 2020 under the Terrorism Act and questioned by West Midlands police officers in connection with the attacks on pubs that took place at the height of the IRA bombing campaign on the UK mainland.

He was released unconditionally after a search of his home address in Belfast.

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21 killed in 1974 Birmingham pub bombings (Birmingham Inquests/PA)

The Birmingham Six were convicted of their involvement in 1975 and sentenced to life in prison, but released after 16 years when the Court of Appeal ruled in 1991 that their sentences were unsafe.

During testimony given at an inquest three years ago, an anonymous IRA volunteer named people he said were involved in the attacks.

When lawyers for the victims’ families named Mr. Reilly to the former IRA volunteer, he denied knowing he was involved.

This new legal move by the families of the victims follows a successful 2009 civil suit brought by the families of the victims of the 1998 Omagh bombing in Northern Ireland.

However, it took nearly six years for Ohm’s campaigners to raise the £2 million needed to fund their cause, including an £800,000 grant from public money.

The Hambleton family is applying for legal aid in Northern Ireland to help fund the action, but if unsuccessful, they will have to turn to donations.

Margaret Smith is also suing the Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police, Sir David Thompson, alleging that the investigation was negligent and in violation of his statutory duties.

Last month, a writ of subpoena was served on Reilly’s lawyers at West Midlands Force Headquarters in Birmingham.

The order has been issued now as the proposed new Northern Ireland Unrest (Heritage and Reconciliation) Bill, which is currently going through Parliament, would bar new civil suits related to the unrest.

Julie Hambleton, Maxine’s 18-year-old younger sister, leads the group Justice4the21, which has called on authorities in recent years to launch a public inquiry into the unsolved bombings.

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Julie Hambleton, who lost her sister Maxine Hambleton in the 1974 bombing (Jacob King/PA)

She said: “The order is to file a damage claim in Belfast High Court for Mr Reilly’s alleged involvement in the murder of Maxine Hambleton, who was my sister.

“This is the only step left for families like ours because successive British governments have refused to help families like ours seek justice in any other way,” she said.

“The threshold for a civil case is not as high as for a criminal case, as was found in the case filed by the families of the Omagh bombers who successfully filed a case for the murder of their loved ones.”

A spokeswoman for the West Midlands Police said: “We can confirm that we have received a civil complaint.”