Belfast Telegraph

Conlon thanks SDLP over release campaign support

By Chris Thornton
12 February 2005

Gerry Conlon showing his letter of apology from the British Prime Minister Tony Blair on his arrival at the SDLP's 34th annual conference in Derry today

The SDLP got an emotional endorsement today from Gerry Conlon, the Guildford Four man who received an apology from Prime Minister Tony Blair this week for being wrongly jailed as an IRA bomber.

Mr Conlon, who spent 14 years in jail, thanked the party "from the bottom of my heart" for helping him, his family members and others who were wrongly jailed secure the apology.

Three days after hearing Mr Blair say sorry for the miscarriage of justice that left his father, Guiseppe, dead in prison, Mr Conlon spoke to the SDLP annual conference in Derry.

Speaking without notes, Mr Conlon ? whose story was told in the film 'In the Name of the Father' - said his family only got the meeting with Mr Blair because SDLP leader Mark Durkan "pushed for it".

He described the SDLP as "good people who are all tirelessly working to improve people's lives".

"Anyone who's living in Northern Ireland today, if you really want a change in your life, you have to get up and support the people working for it," he said. "It's no good sitting in your kitchen."

Mr Conlon's speech was greeted with a standing ovation.

Earlier, former SDLP leader John Hume opened the conference by giving his last address to the party as an MP. He is due to step down from Westminster at the next general election.

He told the party to "stand strong". "My time as a public representative is almost at an end now, but my commitment to the ideals and vision of this party will never end," he said.

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