Guildford 4, clockwise: Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paddy Armstrong

Guildford 4, clockwise: Paul Hill, Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson, Paddy Armstrong

Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four who were arrested in 1974 and framed up by the British state for IRA bombings in Britain and spent 15 years in jail, has died.  After being freed when the convictions were finally overturned in 1989, Gerry became a prominent campaigner for human rights.  Gerry’s case was dramatised in the famous feature film In the Name of the Father, in which Daniel Day-Lewis starred as him.  The film was nominated for 7 academy awards.

When Gerry was being held in prison in London, his father Giuseppe traveled to Britain to organise a lawyer for his son.  He too was arrested, framed up and convicted, dying in prison in 1980.  Gerry’s aunt, Annie Maguire and other members of her family were also framed up with Giuseppe (the Maguire Seven).  The Maguire Seven served their full sentences before their convictions were overturned in 1991.

In February 2005 British prime minister Tony Blair apologised to the families of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.  He stated, “I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice… they deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated.”  (Rather hypocritical considering his own record in relation to Afghanistan and Iraq, of course.)

Below is a moving speech (in two parts) delivered by Gerry in 2011 at the Maritime Union of Australia conference in Melbourne.  The speech details his transformation from a young lumpen-proletarian into a politically-conscious adult as a result of his experiences at the hands of the British state.  Gerry graphically describes what he was subjected to after being lifted by the police and also what he was subjected to, and what he saw others subjected to, in prison in Britain:

 

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Comments
  1. PhilF says:

    I never met Gerry personally, although I was at a few meetings where he spoke. However I got to know Paul Hill’s mother, Lily. Lily was wonderful; she was prepared to speak anywhere, anytime, at the drop of a hat, for the Irish Anti-Extradition Committee. For several years I was the IAEC full-time organiser, so I had quite a lot to do with her.

    Lily also had no shortage of stories of the sheer vindictiveness of the British authorities. For instance, Irish prisoners – including people like Gerry and Paul, who were not in the IRA and didn’t have anything to do with the armed struggle – would be routinely moved around different prisons, without family being informed. So Lily would travel from Belfast over to a prison in England and turn up to find that Paul had been moved to some other prison, sometimes hundreds of miles away and very hard for her to get to.

    She was a wonderful example of the resilience of working class Irish confronted by the brutality of the British state. West Belfast, happily, was brimming with such people. It reinforced my view that the working class can and will change the world, no matter how many detours and setbacks there are along the way.

    Gerry’s transformation from teenage lumpen to politically-conscious adult was also an inspiring reminder of the capacities of the working class, which are hidden much of the time but come to the fore in periods of class ferment and revolution. Another glimpse of the capacity of the working class to act as the universal class.

    Phil

  2. Mick Hall says:

    What a loss, fucking marvelous talk.

  3. Don Franks says:

    Very moving account and what an indictment of British imperialism.
    Apparently when the Guildford Four were sentenced, judge Mr Justice Donaldson told them:
    “If hanging were an option you would have been executed.”