Conlon wanted Guildford files made public

Published Monday, 23 June 2014
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A close friend of the late Gerry Conlon has spoken of his wish for the files connected to the Guildford Four case, which under the Official Secrets Act remain closed for 75 years, to be released.

Mr Conlon died on Saturday at his Falls Road home with his sisters by his side after a period of illness. He was aged 60.

He had spent 15 years in prison for the 1974 IRA bombing which killed five people and injured 65, before his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in 1989.

Speaking to him in the days before he died, family friend Margaret Walsh said that he fought until the end, because there were so many things that he still wanted to do.

She said that Mr Conlon spoke of his desire to access the classified files on the Guildford Four and other cases that are being held under the Official Secrets Act.

"He was talking about the Maguire Seven, the Birmingham Six as well," she said.

"He just felt time that it was time for justice, true justice to be done and for them to get their papers to find out what really had happened and why they had been in prison."

Prime Minister Tony Blair apologised to those wrongfully imprisoned in 2005.

But Mr Conlon spent his years after he was freed troubled by his experience and described having nightmares about his time in prison.

Ms Walsh claimed that he did not receive the psychological help that he needed.

"He found it very hard to cope because while he got the apology, they never really got the help they needed - the psychiatric help they needed to help them continue their lives and that was a very important factor to Gerry and he felt very let down by the governments since then."

Gerry Conlon's father, Guiseppe, was also jailed as part of a discredited investigation into a supposed bomb-making family, the Maguire Seven, and died - after five years in jail - before his name was cleared.

He was arrested while travelling to London from Belfast to try to help his son.

Ms Walsh said that her friend's mind "was in turmoil" because he felt he was to blame for his father dying in prison.

"It was not the case, his father died because the British government put him there. But Gerry wanted until the very end to make sure that he cleared their name.

"Gerry was the type of person that got on with it and he wanted to put things right, he wanted to make sure that people here understood that he was innocent."

She added: "People within the IRA know who did the bombings, so there's an onus on them as well to come forward. The time for truth is now, be it IRA, the British government, come forward and tell the truth and let Gerry rest in peace."

Tributes to Mr Conlon have been paid by politicians on both sides of the border including Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, SDLP MLA Alex Attwood and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore.

Gerry Conlon's funeral will be held at St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast on Saturday.

© UTV News
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2 Comments
MrsW.E in Antrim wrote (118 days ago):
God bless an keep ya gerry x
Taxi Paul in Belfast wrote (118 days ago):
I am only an ordinary citizen but I want the files made public as well. How can protecting corrupt police or terrorists be in the public interest? I believe it is an abuse of the Official secrets Act and these coverups need to be uncovered as they do no one but the guilty any favours. I also firmly believe there is significant support within both Republicanism and Loyalism for this to happen. All them politicians keep banging on about 'closure' well its to late for Mr Conlon get his closure but what about giving it to the rest of the people?
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