Gerry Conlon ‘is finally released,’ says Paul Hill
Guildford Four man felt ‘mixed emotions’ on hearing of his co-accused’s death
Gerry Conlon (left), Paul Hill (centre), and Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six after after the funeral of Birmingham Six member Richard McIkenny in 2006. File Photograph: Julien Behal/PA.
Gerry Conlon’s death yesterday brought back “a lot of difficult emotions and memories”, Paul Hill said today.
The two men were among the four Irish people wrongly convicted for the bombing of two pubs in Guildford on October 5th, 1974, in which seven people were killed and scores injured.
Mr Hill, Mr Conlon and their two other co-accused, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, were jailed for life in 1975. Known as the Guildford Four, they were freed in 1989 after doubts were raised about the police evidence.
Their jailing was one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history, along with the Birmingham Six, who were wrongly jailed for the murder of 21 people in IRA bomb attacks on two pubs in the city in 1974.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio’s This Week programme from the US, where he now lives, Mr Hill said he had “mixed emotions” when he answered the call yesterday to hear Mr Conlon (60) had died in Belfast.
“Gerry is finally released, as it were. It brought back a lot of difficult emotions and memories,” he said.
“What happened to myself and Gerry Conlon was a greater miscarriage of justice than those who died in Guildford, died in Woolwich and in Birmingham,” he said.
Mr Hill strongly criticised the Irish Government and media for getting involved at a late stage.
“I’m not trying to score political points here, but it has to be said that people in positions of power did very little for Gerry Conlon, for myself, the Birmingham Six, Judith Ward and the Maguire Seven,” he said. “We felt abandoned for many, many years.
“People knew we were completely and absolutely innocent. They should look in the mirror today and ask themselves ‘what did I do for these individuals?’”
He said Mr Conlon, who was jailed for life with his father Giuseppe Conlon, had a bigger burden to carry.
Giuseppe Conlon was jailed in 1976 for a related alleged bomb-making offence when he travelled to England to arrange a legal defence for his son. He had one lung, emphysema and had just undergone chemotherapy. He died in Hammersmith Hospital in 1980, four years into his sentence. Eleven years later, his conviction was also overturned.
“Gerry had a more difficult time than the rest of us. He lost his father,” said Mr Hill.
Mr Hill said Mr Conlon had struggled after he was freed from prison in 1989. “ But he was driven to try and help other people,” he said.