Gerry Conlon

gerry conlonGerry Conlon (1954-2014) was a young man from Northern Ireland wrongfully convicted for bombing pubs in England. Conlon was born into a Catholic family in Belfast. As a teenager Conlon was involved in drug use and petty crime but was not associated with political or paramilitary groups. In 1974 Conlon and a friend, Paul Hill, travelled from Belfast to London in search of work. In October 1974 the Provisional IRA bombed two pubs in Guildford, Surrey, killing five people. Conlon, Hill and two others – later dubbed the Guildford Four – were arrested on suspicion of carrying out these bombings. Another seven people, including Conlon’s father Giuseppe and other relatives, were arrested and charged with supporting terrorism.

After several days in police custody both Conlon and Hill signed written confessions. They later claimed to have been subjected to intimidation, beatings and threats. Conlon, Hill and two associates (dubbed the Guildford Four) were convicted of murder and other offences. When sentencing the four Justice Donaldson told them “if hanging were still an option you would have been executed”. Giuseppe Conlon and six others (dubbed the Maguire Seven) were convicted of aiding and supplying the bombers and handed lengthy prison sentences. Conlon and Hill would spend almost 15 years in prison. Giuseppe Conlon contracted a terminal illness and died in prison in 1980, British authorities refusing him compassionate release or parole.

The Guildford Four were released in October 1989 after a London appeals court found that police investigators had fabricated evidence, concealed an alibi and obtained confessions under duress. Addressing the media outside the court, Conlon vowed to clear his father’s name and fight for others who had been unjustly convicted and jailed. In 1991 Conlon authored a book, Proved Innocent, and two years later his story was depicted in the film In the Name of the Father. Gerry Conlon died from lung cancer in Belfast in June 2014.

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