Death of Gerry Conlon a loss ‘for those who fight injustice’ - President
Muslims now suffer prejudice as Irish did 40 years ago, says barrister
President Michael D Higgins: he said Mr Conlon was “the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice as was his father, Giuseppe”. Photograph: Alan Betson
The death of Gerry Conlon, who was wrongly jailed for the IRA’s bombing of pubs in Guildford, Surrey in 1974, represents a loss “not only in Ireland, but also among all those who struggle against injustice,” President Michael D Higgins has said.
In a statement issued from Áras an Uachtaráin, the President said he was “greatly saddened” to hear of the death of Mr Conlon, released in 1989 after 15 years in prison. The funeral will be held in St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast on Saturday morning.
Sending his condolences, Mr Higgins said Mr Conlon was “the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice as was his father, Giuseppe”.
“It was clear in recent years that he and his family paid an enormous price for that injustice through the long years he and Giuseppe spent in prison and in the incredible difficulties Gerry faced in trying to adjust to life in the community after losing so much of his adult life to imprisonment.”
The integrity and determination Mr Conlon brought to the fight for truth, and the tireless work of those who supported the Guildford Four, Birmingham Six and Maguire Seven campaigns “stand as an inspiration to all who stand up for justice,” he added.
He praised Mr Conlon’s campaigns on behalf of other victims of human rights abuses through the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation.
One of Mr Conlon’s key legal representatives warned yesterday that present-day attitudes towards Muslims in Britain reflected the bias against the Irish there in the 1970s.
Michael Mansfield QC warned that Muslims are being “tarred with the same brush” and “criminalised” as many Irish were 40 years ago.
Commenting on the death of Mr Conlon, Mr Mansfield told BBC Radio Ulster: “If you look at the attitude to the Muslim community, it is almost exactly the same as the attitude that was struck in relation to the Irish community in the 1970s.”
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, meanwhile, has rejected claims the IRA bore responsibility for miscarriages of justice suffered by Mr Conlon and his family on account of IRA violence in Britain at the time of the Guildford bombing.
“The responsibility for the detention and incarceration of a range of people there, from the Guildford Four to the Birmingham Six and the Maguires, rests absolutely with the British establishment,” Mr Adams told RTÉ.
“The police there knew those individuals were not involved in those actions and there was a cover-up and that’s a matter of public record.”