Neil Connor looks back on the life of Richard McIlkenny, one of the Birmingham Six who was wrongly convicted of bombing two pubs in the city in 1974...
Richard McIlkenny was the first to speak when the Birmingham Six took their steps to freedom outside the Old Bailey in London on March 14 1991.
"It's good to see you all," he said. "We've waited a long time for this - 16 years because of hypocrisy and brutality. But every dog has its day and we're going to have ours."
That moment marked the end of a long battle for Mr McIlkenny, his wife Kate and six children; a battle which has led to far reaching changes in the way that prosecutions are dealt with in the UK.
On his first full day of freedom, Mr McIlkenny enjoyed a stroll around the grounds of a Home Counties hideaway with his grandchildren, who he had never met before.
His daughter Theresa Mockbie said at the time: "I had my dream come true last night when I saw my mother and father sitting together without a table between them. It was beautiful to see. My King and Queen."
However, the suffering did not end for Mr McIlkenny after his release. He settled near Dublin and faced difficulties coming to terms with losing 16 years of his life.
He destroyed his short-term memory through alcohol abuse and nearly lost his marriage.
Four years ago he said: "I was a different person. I was drinking bottle after bottle of vodka. I'd wake up and I'd drink. It just crippled me. You think you're in charge but you're not."
It seemed that Mr McIlkenny did not 'have his day', despite his payout from the Government of £1 million in 2000.
The course of his life radically changed from the moment he was arrested on November 21, 1974, along with Paddy Joe Hill, Hugh Callaghan, Gerry Hunter, Billy Power and Johnny Walker.
Noel Richard McIlkenny was born on December 22 1933 into a staunch Catholic community in Belfast.
On leaving school he worked as a delivery boy and in a mill. He secured a place at college after passing his exams, but decided against becoming a student for financial reasons
He joined the Irish Army when he was 18 and became a three-star private cook. He was discharged in January 1956 on compassionate grounds, after his father had a stroke.
Following his father's recovery in 1958, Mr McIlkenny came to England in search of work and settled in Birmingham after spending a few months working in factories in the north.
He worked in the maintenance department of Forgings and Pressings Limited, on Birch Road, Witton from 1969, until his arrest.
It was there that he met Johnny Walker, who was also arrested for the Birmingham atrocity. The pair would sell raffle tickets to raise funds for the dependants of people being interned by the British in Northern Ireland.
Mr McIlkenny and Mr Walker would also share a pint of Guinness at the College Arms in Perry Common before they went to work. It was there that they would occasionally speak to the other four men who would later be arrested.
However, Mr McIlkenny always claimed to have barely known the other men before five of them met up in November 21, 1974 for a trip to Northern Ireland for the funeral of James McDade.
Mr McIlkenny had known McDade's parents as they were from the same area of Belfast. But the pair rarely met, as Mr McDade was 11 years younger than McIlkenny.
Following his conviction in August 1975, Mr McIlkenny's family devoted their lives to campaigning for his release.
His wife Kate and eldest daughters Theresa and Ann frequently called on successive Home Secretaries to launch fresh inquiries into the conviction.
He missed the births of 14 of his grandchildren and was not at the wedding of three of his daughters and one of his sons.
Mr McIlkenny's brother Paddy took the campaign to the Kremlin in October 1988.
He met President Mikhail Gorbachev's foreign affairs adviser before demonstrating outside the British Embassy in Moscow with a banner demanding "Justice for the Birmingham Six".
Mr McIlkenny is survived by his wife Kathleen, his daughters and his only son, who were all at his bedside yesterday.
He had settled in the early 1990s near Dublin after his release from prison in England.
Gerry Kelly, Sinn Fein North Belfast MLA, said: "We are devastated that Richard has died and we extend our condolences to his family.
"Richard and his family stood up against British injustice and were proved right in the end.
"He had years of his life stolen from him because of the British judicial system."