A man named as the Manchester bomber insisted today "I had nothing to do

with it." Declan McCann, 31, of Crossmaglen, south Armagh, said he was nowhere near the city at the time of the June 1996 bombing which left 200 people injured.

In a press statement Mr McCann's solicitor, Gerard Trainor, said "My client is a man with a young family who has never been in trouble with the police."

Mr McCann was accused by the Manchester Evening News of being one of the prime suspects in the atrocity, Britain's biggest mainland terrorist bombing. In a report earlier this week the paper claimed that police investigating the bombing believed they had enough evidence to arrest and charge him.

McCann, the paper said, had been tracked by detectives on a trip to view the devastation in the city. More than £5 million damage was caused when the one and a half tonne lorry bomb exploded outside the packed Arndale centre.

Police had told the Crown Prosecution Service they believed there was enough evidence to implicate McCann in the conspiracy, the article claimed, and had linked him to six other IRA conspirators and to a terrorist gang in London.

But Mr McCann's solicitor said the allegations were completely false and could put his life in danger. The South Armagh man had only ever been to Manchester to watch football matches, he said. "My client has lived at his present address for seven years openly and has never been interviewed by the police. We are studying the article with a view to possible legal action to protect his rights and safety. I must query the motives for publishing these allegations, which were clearly based on information from the police."

He continued: "My client was not in Manchester in 1996 although he has been there subsequently with friends to watch football matches."