Conlon lived life with an honest fury against injustice
Analysis: Guildford Four man campaigned fearlessly for unpopular causes
Gerry Conlon outside the Old Bailey in London in 1989 after being released for being wrongly convicted of the Guilford pub bombings. File Photograph: PA Wire
The image of Gerry Conlon that will remain indelible is him coming out of the Old Bailey in London in 1989 a free man and declaring to the world that he had spent 15 years in prison “for something I did not do, for something I did not know anything about”.
As well as the words, it was the raised clenched fist, the passion and anger in his voice and in his face that conveyed such a powerful impression of a man who had suffered a great injustice.
In his subsequent 25 years of freedom, Gerry Conlon lived life with the same fervour and honest fury that he demonstrated on the day he was freed from prison. He died from a cancer that was late diagnosed.
As his friend SDLP Assembly member Alex Attwood said today, he lived his life with “urgency, anger, exasperation, intensity and a thirst for justice - he was making up for lost time”.
Up until recently he had been involved in a number of campaigns. He was also prepared to fight unpopular causes, such as saying that the two men convicted for the 2009 Continuity IRA murder of Constable Stephen Carroll may have been victims of “a miscarriage of justice”.
A supporter of the SDLP, he had no love of dissident republicanism. However, his own experience of the criminal and judicial system meant he wanted to test whether the evidence supported the convictions of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton. He believed it didn’t, although the courts held otherwise.
He also campaigned for Old Bailey bomber Marian Price when her release licence was revoked, claiming she was a victim of internment and a denial of due process.
Based on what happened to him, what happened to his late father Giuseppe, what happened to the rest of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, it was hardly surprising that he would challenge anything that he felt was an “affront to justice”.
“What happened to one of us could happen to all of us,” he said when campaigning for Ms Price.
It was that zeal, as Mr Attwood noted, that drove him on relentlessly, almost obsessively.
As Mr Attwood said today: “His death at 60 years of age is far too young for someone who had suffered far too much, who had then given so much and had so much more to give.”