Guildford Four: Tributes paid to Gerry Conlon

Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four with Bloody Sunday family members, from left, Helen Deery, and Linda and Kate Nash supporting the Free Marian Price campaign. (1101PG07)
Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four with Bloody Sunday family members, from left, Helen Deery, and Linda and Kate Nash supporting the Free Marian Price campaign. (1101PG07)

Local tributes have been paid to Gerry Conlon, a member of the Guildford Four who has passed away aged 60. Mr Conlon died at his home in the Falls Road area of west Belfast after a long illness.

Mr Conlon, along with Paul Hill, Carole Richardson and Paddy Armstrong, was wrongly convicted of the 1974 IRA Guildford and Woolwich pub bombings and served 15 years in prison before his conviction was quashed in 1989.

Gerry Conlon’s father, Guiseppe Conlon died in prison in 1980 having been arrested on his way to London to help his son during his trial.

In 2005, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologised for the miscarriage of justice.

Derry Sinn Fein MLA, Raymond McCartney told the Journal: “ There is a great sadness in Derry today on hearing the news of the death of Gerry Conlon.

“Since his release from jail Gerry had campaigned tirelessly for those who had suffered miscarriages of justice.

“I want to extend my sincere condolonces to his family and friends at this time.”

Foyle MP, Mark Durkan told the Journal: “Mr Durkan said: “I am deeply shocked and saddened by Gerry Conlon’s death.

“The intensity of what he endured, drove his restless fight and passion for justice.

“I know from many personal conversations that for Gerry the greatest tribute would be to be thought of as a credit to his parents.

“What a credit? What parents? What spirit this man had!

“He was doggedly decent as well as doggedly determined.

“He combined wit with grit and was truly inspiring in his outlook and his special articulacy.

“I am proud to have worked to secure the apology by Tony Blair to the Gulidford Four and Maguire Seven in 2005. When I first promised Gerry Conlon and his mother Sarah that I would do this they both spoke to me separately in her house.

“He wanted the apology for her; she wanted it for him; they both needed it for Guiseppe.

“However I know that the release from that apology and the added vindication with that affirmation of innocence did not end the nightmares that haunted every sleep – with his seering, hurtful experiences replaying like a video that he couldn’t switch off.

“That was one of the reasons why he so strongly advocated the need for bespoke treatment for victims of miscarriages of justice.

“I worked with Gerry in that cause with MOJO (the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation) and other MPs in the last parliament and earlier in this parliament.

“The bit of progress that was made was parked by Ministers in the current government in the context of austerity budgets. But only this week MOJO were talking to me about resuming the campaign in light of some new undertakings with funding for victims of crime. Indeed, we were talking about the contribution that Gerry could again make.

“In recent years Gerry was also a compelling witness against flawed legislation such as more closed material proceedings where defendants and their chosen lawyers wouldn’t know what some of the evidence against them is – and also a mean measure to deny compensation to victims of miscarriages of justice by creating an invidious burden of having to prove their innocence, not just that the conviction was unsafe.

“He brought passion, vigour and penetrating meaning to these sorts of issues and we all be poorer without that profound advocacy.

“I offer my sincere condolences to Gerry’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

In a statement issued through his lawyer Gareth Peirce, Mr Conlon’s family said: “He helped us to survive what we were not meant to survive.

“We recognise that what he achieved by fighting for justice for us had a far, far greater importance - it forced the world’s closed eyes to be opened to injustice; it forced unimaginable wickedness to be acknowledged; we believe it changed the course of history.

“We thank him for his life and we thank all his many friends for their love.”

The story of the Guildford Four was turned into an Oscar nominated film called ‘In the Name of the Father’ in 1993 in which actor Daniel Day Lewis played the part of Gerry Conlon.