[Marxism] Gerry Conlon, Imprisoned in I.R.A. Attack and Freed After 15 Years, Dies at 60

Louis Proyect 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 
at 60

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 
had experienced.

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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