In the Name of the Father, Guildford Four, Gerry Conlon passes away

In ‘The Name of the Father’ is one of the great red pill movies of all time, which is why today’s news of Gerry Conlon’s death should leave all men a little bit sad.

Gerry Conlon was one of four people wrongly convicted of carrying out the IRA bombing of a Guildford pub in 1974.

Conlon was 60 years old. He passed away overnight in his Falls Road, Belfast home after a long fight with cancer.

Conlon had spent 15 years in English jails for a crime he was innocent of, the bombing of the Horse and Groom pub, which killed five people and injured another 65.

The Guardian reflects on the Guildford Four:

He and two other Belfast men – Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong – and Carole Richardson, an English woman, were jailed after police fabricated confessions. It was one of the most notorious miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

Conlon’s father Guiseppe Conlon was among the Maguire Seven, which included Conlon’s aunt Annie who were arrested after being falsely accused of taking part in the same IRA bombing campaign in southern England in the mid 1970s. Guiseppe Conlon was jailed in 1975 and died in prison five years later from ill-health.

The Guildford Four were released in 1989 but they did not receive an official apology for the miscarriage of justice until 16 years later, when then prime minister Tony Blair said sorry in a TV recording from his Commons office. An investigation by Avon and Somerset police found serious flaws in the way Surrey police handled the case.

After finally, gaining his freedom, Conlon underwent psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, suffering nightmares and flashbacks about his time in prison He suffered two breakdowns, attempted suicide and became addicted to drugs and alcohol to “block out the memories” following his release.

Conlon overcame many difficulties to eventually document his side of events writing for the Guardian in 2009:

“It is still hard to describe what it is like to be facing a life sentence for something you did not do. For the first two years, I still had a little bit of hope. I would hear the jangling of keys and think that this was the time the prison officers were going to come and open the cell door and set us free. But after the Maguire Seven (all also wrongly convicted) – my father among them – were arrested, we started to lose that hope.

“Not only did we have to beat the criminal justice system but we also had to survive in prison. Our reality was that nightmare. They would urinate in our food, defecate in it, put glass in it. Our cell doors would be left open for us to be beaten and they would come in with batteries in socks to beat us over the head. I saw two people murdered. I saw suicides. I saw somebody set fire to himself in Long Lartin prison.”

The horrors survived by Conlon and his father Guiseppe was turned into the 1993 film ‘In The Name of the Father’, directed by Jim Sheridan and starring Oscar-winner Daniel Day Lewis.

Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, extended his condolences to Conlon’s family.

“I am saddened to hear of the death of Gerry Conlon and send my condolences to his family and friends,” he said. “Conlon suffered a grave miscarriage of justice along with his father, Giuseppe, Paul Hill, Carol Richardson and Paddy Armstrong. In later years Gerry drew from his experiences to campaign on behalf of others with the group Miscarriages of Justice Organisation. His loss will be felt both within the community in west Belfast and across the world with all those who work in pursuit of justice.”

RIP Gerry Conlon.


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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.

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