'Ahern to ask Blair for Guildford Four apology'

27/01/2005 - 19:25:11

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is to ask British Prime Minister Tony Blair next week to apologise to the family of a member of the wrongfully-convicted Guildford Four, it was claimed tonight.

The miscarriage of justice against Gerry Conlon and his late father Giuseppe featured in the 1993 Oscar-nominated movie In The Name Of The Father directed by Jim Sheridan.

Mr Conlon and his mother Sarah met Mr Ahern in Dublin today in his campaign for an British apology along with Mr Sheridan and SDLP leader Mark Durkan.

Mr Durkan said afterwards that Mr Ahern assured the delegation that he would raise the issue with Mr Blair at Downing Street on Tuesday.

Mr Durkan added: “I believe Mr Blair is well-intentioned on the issue and will understand why the Conlon family needs closure for once and for all.”

Mr Conlon said that Mr Blair was the first premier with the strength of character to issue a public apology.

“Thirty-one years is a long time to suffer and my mother is getting on in years. Who knows how long she has left?” he said.

“She’s heartbroken. We’re all heartbroken. We need this to stop.”

Mother Sarah said: “A public apology would mean the world to me. Giuseppe went to jail as an IRA bomber and died in jail with people thinking he was an IRA bomber.”

Four soldiers and a civilian were killed when the IRA planted a bomb in the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford, Surrey, in October 1974.

In October 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four after doubts were raised about the police evidence.

Giuseppe was arrested along with members of Annie Maguire’s family after they were allegedly identified as being involved in the bomb plot in confessions extracted by the police.

Giuseppe, who had a history of bronchial problems, died in prison while serving his sentence in January 1980.

Mr Sheridan, who signed a petition in the campaign, said that Mr Ahern was “emotionally moved” by the pleas of the Conlons during the 30-minute meeting at Government Buildings.

He added: “Guiseppe represented somebody that was fundamentally decent and good.

Mr Sheridan said he felt that the families of the victims of the Guildford bombs would also agree that Mr Blair should issue a public apology.

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