US president-elect Joe Biden called for the release of the Birmingham Six when he was a US senator 30 years ago, newly-released government documents show.

The Birmingham Six - Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Joseph Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power, and John Walker - were sentenced to life in prison in 1975 after being wrongfully convicted for the killing of 21 people in IRA bomb attacks on two pubs in Birmingham, England, on November 21, 1974.

Irish state papers released under the 30-year rule into the National Archives show a Department of Foreign Affairs memo noting Biden’s campaign on Capitol Hill in support of the jailed Irish men.

Biden, who will become the second Irish American Catholic president in US history, has spoken frequently about his Irish roots.

In March 1990, Biden, who was the second-ranking Democrat on the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee at the time, proposed a resolution calling for a reopening of the case and for US president George Bush to raise the issue with British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. The proposal included 13 co-sponsors including other Irish-American politicians, Senators Edward Kennedy and Patrick Moynihan.

The motion was similar to one that had been tabled in Congress two months previously by Massachusetts representative and chairman of the Friends of Ireland, Brian Donnelly, the Irish Examiner reports.

The Birmingham Six outside the Old Bailey in London in 1991 after they were released for the first time since 1974. Credit: RollingNews.ie

The Birmingham Six outside the Old Bailey in London in 1991 after they were released for the first time since 1974. Credit: RollingNews.ie

A Department of Foreign Affairs memo notes that the January 1990 motion, which had 109 co-sponsors, including Joesph Kennedy, was actively lobbied against by the British embassy.

Both proposals and the support of leading US politicians added to the growing pressure on the British government to re-examine the Birmingham Six’s convictions, reports The Irish Times.

On March 14, 1991, their convictions were declared unsafe and quashed by the Court of Appeals. The six Irish men were later awarded compensation ranging from £840,000 to £1.2 million.

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