Apologies won't bring back the missing years

Sunday Business Post
13 February 2005

There they were, ghosts from the past, still shuffling
along like actors from an old drama in search of its

Gerry Conlon, Annie Maguire, Vincent and Patrick
Maguire, the last players in perhaps the last act of
the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven dramas.

There they were, back on the evening news, making
their slow progress past the cameramen on their way
into the House of Commons.

Once more in the headlines, but this time the
authorities were inviting them to meet the prime
minister in his office behind speaker's chair, rather
than the master of the rolls in Old Bailey Court
number five.

There was Gerry, older and portlier than the trembling
rake whose hand I had first been able to shake in the
reception hall at the Old Bailey as he made his
headlong plunge out the door to freedom in 1990 -
with, I remember, a plastic bag of clothes and four
LPs tucked under his arm. Not much in the way of
possessions, after 14 years on the blocks.

There was Annie Maguire herself, once the alleged
keeper of Sir Michael Havers' infamous “bomb

Annie, as always, looked her impeccable best, and I
wondered had she come by tube yet again for the big

I remembered how she told me that, on the morning of
the verdict in 1975, she took the tube to the Old
Bailey, along with her two young wide-eyed and
wondering sons. The Maguires were all so convinced
that British justice would assert their innocence that
they and their Kilburn neighbours had arranged a
celebration party for that evening.

Instead, as night fell, Annie was being pumped full of
tranquilisers in the hospital wing of Wandsworth.

Her two terrified children were locked up in a young
offenders' unit.

Her husband Paddy, brother-in-law Giuseppe and their
neighbour Pat O'Neill (who just happened to be in the
house when the law arrived) were getting the
time-honoured welcome from warders and inmates at
Wormwood Scrubs: shoes banging on doors and urine in
their breakfast after an all-night chorus of “What
shall we do with the fucking bombers?”.

Back in Kilburn, the old Maguire house was abandoned
like some ancient plague site. Annie's little
daughter, now left behind, had to go to live with

Subsequently, the council couldn't find tenants to
live there, and eventually the local vandals smashed
the windows and doors, and wrecked all of Annie's
furniture. People walking past would even cross the
street to avoid passing the ‘bomb factory' that had
became a wino-squat.

By now, poor Annie, inconsolable at the loss of her
little daughter and sons, had been moved to the prison
hospital at the concrete tomb that was Durham Prison.

In the cell next door was Myra Hindley.

There, Annie finally met some real IRA bombers when
the convicted Gillespie sisters from Donegal came to
her bedside.

“Get up out of that bed, Annie, and don't let them
give you any more of those tranquilisers, or you will
never survive,” they told her. “You'll die in prison.”
She did get up, and she did survive.

And there too on the news was Annie's son, Patrick.
Now on the edge of middle age, still waxing eloquently
about that strange prison in the mind, from which
victims of judicial miscarriage cannot ever escape.

After his father, mother and brother had been taken
down,12-year-old Patrick was left alone in the dock.
Seemingly, Judge Donaldson was confused and had
forgotten to sentence him - understandably enough. I
mean how many Maguires were there?

Uncertainly, Patrick looked at the warders ,who looked
at the judge, and then suddenly Sir Michael Havers,
prosecuting, was on his feet to ensure British justice
was done. “What does a bomb look like, young man?’ he
solemnly asked the child. Patrick's bomb-making
knowledge had clearly been gleaned from technical
manuals like the Dandy and the Beano.

He replied: “It was like a black ball with a long wire
coming out of it.’' For that, he got five years, and
went off to do his porridge, presumably with fellow
subversives like Beryl the Peril and Desperate Dan.

Down below in the holding cells, the scene was
unimaginable. Annie had collapsed on the floor. She
was receiving first aid, and her sons were on a nearby

Paddy, Giuseppe and Pat O'Neill, all shackled to each
other, were trying to get their heads around the
meaning of eight, 12 and 14 years. Upstairs, a
triumphant Scotland Yard Bomb Squad were already
briefing Fleet Street's best. They were solemnly
trotting out the small print stuff that you can't
really say in court but is food and drink to the crime

Auntie Annie came in for special treatment.
“Heartless, cold master-bomber.

“Imagine getting the kids to mix explosive in the
kitchen. Gave lessons in the parlour.

“Can you bloody imagine, mate?”

As the big black vans with the wailing sirens were
pulling away from the Old Bailey, the lurid profiles
of an Oirish family of simian-faced 19th century
bombers were pouring down the copy lines.

Given his poor health, Giuseppe's 12-year term was
always going to be a life sentence. Dying from
emphysema, he shuffled through various prisons in
carpet-slippers, subsisting on Complan. He died in
Hammersmith hospital in 1980, handcuffed to a special
cage-like bed with two warders and an armed police
officer plus dog to prevent him escaping.

In 1983, I wrote to Annie in Durham Prison, seeking
permission to interview her two sons (who by then had
been released) for a television documentary.

Broadcast in 1984 by ITV. Aunt Annie's Bomb Factory
was one of the first bricks to come out of the wall.

Annie finally got out of prison in 1985, to begin the
task of gathering up her scattered and broken family.
Her husband, Patrick, died in 2002.LordHavers, Lord
Donaldson and forensic scientist Sir John Yallop,
whose risible TLC test could have locked up every
cigarette-smoker in the land for “handling
explosives'‘, are all dead. Gone to their eternal

Was it miscarriage, or conspiracy to pervert, or both?
I suspect the latter, but in the end, it didn't
matter. Apparently, the punishment for both crimes is
the same: a police promotion or a seat in the Lords.
If we live long enough, we eventually see everything,
even the prime minister having Aunt Annie of the bomb
factory to tea and apologising in the Commons.

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