Guildford Four's Conlon meets Ahern in quest for British apology

27/01/2005 - 08:17:05

A member of the Guildford Four will meet Bertie Ahern today in an attempt to persuade the British government to apologise publicly for jailing him and his father.

Gerry Conlon, whose case was highlighted in the Oscar-nominated movie In The Name Of The Father, starring Daniel Day Lewis, was heading to Dublin after receiving a private acknowledgement that the family had been the victims of a major miscarriage of justice.

Five people were killed when the IRA planted a bomb in a bar in Guildford in October 1974. The attack in the Horse and Groom pub claimed the lives of four soldiers and a civilian.

Two groups of people known as the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, were later jailed in connection with the attack and other bombings in Woolwich, south east London.

A number of MPs, church leaders, journalists and legal figures began to raise concerns about their convictions.

Gerry Conlon was one of the four people initially detained for the attack.

His father Guiseppe Conlon was also 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.

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

In October 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four after doubts were raised about the police evidence. In June 1991, the Court of Appeal also overturned the sentences on the Maguire Seven.

The case was brought to international attention by Jim Sheridan’s movie In The Name of the Father in 1993 which also starred Pete Postlethwaite as Guiseppe Conlon and Emma Thompson as the solicitor, Gareth Pierce.

Mr Sheridan was due to meet Gerry Conlon in Dublin today to sign the family’s petition calling for a public apology from the British Government.

SDLP leader Mark Durkan was also accompanying Mr Conlon at a meeting with the Taoiseach.

Mr Durkan explained: “Everyone thinks the story of the Guildford Four is the story of the film, In The Name of the Father. In fact, there hasn’t been an easy, happy ending.

“The Conlon family still live with the trauma of the terrible injustice done to all of their family 30 years ago. Just last year, the SDLP was pleased to have got the first ever recognition of innocence, not only of Gerry Conlon but of his fater Guiseppe too.

“Amazingly, it was only 15 years after their release that they got such an acknowledgement of their innocence and the apology they deserved.

“But they have not yet got the support they need to overcome the results of their trauma. We are seeing the Taoiseach to ask him to do what he can to get the British government to face up to their responsibilities.”

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