[Marxism] Gerry Conlon, Imprisoned in I.R.A. Attack and Freed After 15 Years, Dies at 60
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Jun 23 07:49:44 MDT 2014
NY Times, June 23 2014
Gerry Conlon, Imprisoned in I.R.A. Attack and Freed After 15 Years, Dies
By DOUGLAS DALBY
Gerry Conlon, who spent a quarter of his life in prison for Irish
Republican Army bombings in which he was later found to have had no
involvement — and whose case inspired an Oscar-nominated film — died on
Saturday at his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was 60.
His death was announced by his family, which said he had been ill with
cancer for some time.
Mr. Conlon and the other members of the so-called Guildford Four — his
fellow Irishmen Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong and an Englishwoman,
Carole Richardson — were found guilty in 1975 of planting two bombs in
Guildford, a suburb of London, which killed five people and injured
dozens more. Mr. Hill and Mr. Armstrong were also convicted of planting
a bomb in Woolwich, in south London, that killed two people.
The four were sentenced to life imprisonment. At their trial the judge
told them, “If hanging were still an option you would have been executed.”
Mr. Conlon denied any role in the bombings and insisted that he was
never a member of the Irish Republican Army gang that wreaked havoc in
southern England in the mid-1970s.
He was living with a group of squatters in London when he and his fellow
defendants were arrested, six weeks after the bombings. The only
evidence against them was self-incriminatory statements they had made
while in police custody. At their trial, allegations of police brutality
and fabrication of evidence were ignored.
After years of campaigning on their behalf, their convictions were
quashed and they were released in 1989. It was revealed that crucial
evidence proving Mr. Conlon could not have carried out the bombings had
not been presented at the original trial.
A group of Mr. Conlon’s relatives, collectively known as the Maguire
Seven, had been convicted of being part of the bombing campaign and
spent decades behind bars. Among them was his father, Giuseppe, who had
traveled to London from Belfast to help him mount a legal defense, and
who died in prison in 1980. In 1991 the Maguire Seven were also exonerated.
No one has ever been convicted in the bombings.
Mr. Conlon became synonymous with British miscarriages of justice,
particularly after the success of the 1993 movie “In the Name of the
Father,” based on his memoir. The film, directed by Jim Sheridan and
starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Mr. Conlon and Pete Postlethwaite as his
father, was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture,
best actor (Mr. Day-Lewis) and best supporting actor (Mr. Postlethwaite).
In 2005, Tony Blair, then the prime minister, issued a public apology to
the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven. “They deserve to be completely
and publicly exonerated,” he said.
Mr. Conlon was born on March 1, 1954, in west Belfast and grew up in the
Irish nationalist Falls Road area. At age 20, he went to England to seek
work and to escape the everyday violence he was encountering on the streets.
After his release from prison, Mr. Conlon became a vigorous campaigner
for victims of miscarriages of justice and lobbied for the establishment
of a trauma center to help them deal with life after prison.
His survivors include his partner, a daughter, and two sisters, Ann and
Freedom did not bring Mr. Conlon peace. He contemplated suicide. He
became addicted to drugs and alcohol. But in a recent interview, he said
counseling had helped him begin to come to terms with the suffering he
He also said that the financial compensation he received from the
British government in 1997 was inadequate and inappropriate recognition
for “taking me, torturing me and framing me; taking my father, torturing
him and having him die in prison; then leaving me sinking in the
quicksand of my own nightmares.”
Mr. Conlon’s family said in a statement: “He helped us to survive what
we were not meant to survive. We recognize 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.”
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