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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 February, 2005, 13:12 GMT
Blair apology: Your reaction
Gerry Conlon outside the House of Commons
Tony Blair has made a public apology to members of the Conlon and Maguire families who were victims of one of the UK's biggest miscarriages of justice.

The prime minister said that he was sorry that the families "were subject to such an ordeal and injustice".

The Court of Appeal quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four in 1989 and two years later it overturned the sentences on the Maguire Seven. The bid by the Conlon and Maguire families followed a substantial campaign in Ireland.

Should Tony Blair have made a public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families? Should he have made the apology in the Commons? Should he have gone any further?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

If an apology helps to heal the wounds of the Conlon and Maguire familiy then we should commend Blair. In the meantime the people of Northern Ireland should receive an apolgy from all their politcians for the current lack of progress in the peace process.
Brendan, N. Ireland

Great, but many of the responses so far are forgeting that it was the fault of the evidence at the time, not the justice system or individuals per se. Both sides I hope, have grown up since then. Next stage surely in this era of openess, working together and striving for the future, should be an apology from Sinn Fein for the incident. If not why not? It takes both sides to admit wrongs of the past and work together for the future.
Sara, SE England

He has proved to be a good leader who dares to stand up for his convictions and the rights
David, UK/Malaysia

It's never too late to apologise for a wrong doing. He has proved to be a good leader who dares to stand up for his convictions and the rights, no matter the odds. Time that he is clearing the skeletons left behind by his predecessors. Time will tell that he is a great leader.
David, UK/Malaysia

Another grasp at votes from Mr Blair. What a joke this man is. Does everyone who has been found innocent after being imprisoned now get an apology face to face with the prime minister, I think not unless it's a vote winner.
Shaun Peck, Hull, England

If the Conlon and Maguire families are genuinely innocent of these crimes then they deserve an apology from the government as well as the huge financial compensation and free legal aid they have received. But let's not forget they were convicted on the best evidence available at the time. Let's not forget that several of those convicted were active criminals with strong Irish Republican affiliations. Finally, let's not forget that since 1974 Sinn Fein/IRA knew exactly who was guilty of the bombings and who wasn't. An apology from Gerry Adams might be more appropriate.
Roger, London, England.

I think it is a disgrace that it has taken so long for an apology to be made. Why was it not made back in 1989? I hope these families have received substantial compensation for the trauma they experienced.
Peter, Belfast

If he can apologise to the Conlons and Maguires for 15 years, perhaps he can now apologise to the rest of us for 45 minutes.
Adam, London, UK

Mr Blair should be admired and applauded, whatever your political persuasions, for the apology he made. It draws a line under a very shameful episode within the police and judicial systems.
Chris Telford, London, UK

Blair apologised for one reason and one reason alone - his election team told him to do so. His pathetic "I could apologise" speech at conference, over Iraq, didn't wash with the electorate. He's made an apology to make us think that he can apologise. The injustice suffered by the Conlons and the Maguires should be acknowledged, but for the right reasons and not because Campbell, Milburn and Mandelson think it'll make Blair seem conciliatory in an election year.
Matt Goodinson, London

Cynically I would say that this apology may have more to do with the current electioneering than anything else
Joe, Birmingham
Unless Mr Blair is prepared to apologise over every miscarriage of justice I don't see why he should choose to apologise for this one. Cynically I would say that this apology may have more to do with the current electioneering than anything else. If he wishes to apologise then he could start by apologising for the war which he was responsible for.
Joe, Birmingham

At least he had the guts to say sorry, some prime ministers don't.
Jo, UK

This apology is long overdue. The Conlon and Maguire families are very generous in their graceful acceptance.
Muriel Cawdery, Athlone, Ireland

What about the bombing victims - is the case closed for them?
Anon
What about the bombing victims - is the case closed for them? Someone committed these dreadful crimes and has never been brought to justice and from the sound of this never will.
Anon

Some of you just don't seem to get it, these people were innocent. This is not about the IRA bombing, this is about the judicial system using scapegoats to appease the British public. Yes the apology should have been made but a long time ago.
Anon

Yes, Tony Blair should have made the apology because it clearly means so much to Mr Conlon and his family. The man needed his name to be cleared publicly and he is patently very pleased with this apology. Shame it had to take so long.
Sally Burgess, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, Wales

This seems to me a case of - better late than never. Of course an apology is due, and it should be made by the present leader of the country, regardless whether or not he was involved in the miscarriage of justice. The House, as the seat of Parliament, is the right place for such an apology. I can't help wondering how these people sneering would have handled it? Although an apology from all the paramilitary organisations in Ulster would be a leap forward, we have to work with what we've got. A Prime Minister who is prepared to take it on the chin on behalf of the Police and Politicians of that era, whose main aim was to be seen to be doing something, regardless.
John McCullagh, Bristol, England

If they can incorrectly jail people for terrorist acts in 1989 in front of a court of 12 jurors we can only expect more miscarriages of justice when there is only government appointed people to judge these cases in the future.
N Morgan, Halifax, UK

It is a pity that one of his predecessors did not offer this apology earlier
Alan, Galway, Ireland
It is entirely appropriate for Tony Blair, as Prime Minister of the UK, to apologise to the Maguire and Conlon families for the injustice that was done to them by the British state. It is a pity that one of his predecessors did not offer this apology earlier. I don't think that this is a stunt by Blair, he is responding to a request by the families.
Alan, Galway, Ireland

I'm sure there are other things our beloved PM could be apologising for too. I suppose this is a start. Compensation for the families affected would be a good next step.
Lachlan, Glasgow, Scotland

I applaud the government for the apology. However, I am confused as this is the same government that wishes to place people under house arrest despite there being no charges. They have also imprisoned a number of people who have not been found guilty or even charged. I suspect that there will be an apology for them in about 30 years!
Martin, Whitehaven, UK

Why should Mr. Blair be apologising for something he had no control over? He has control over the current war - how about the apology due to the nation for that muck up?
Richard Lee, Chelmsford, U.K

I am appalled that people are implying that this apology should not have been forthcoming because the victims of the pub bombings haven't had one. Wake up Britain - 2 wrongs don't make a right, this country has done things to be ashamed of, Blair was right to apologise
Samantha Wright, London

Is this only a political ploy to keep Bertie Ahern on side?
Tony, Welling Kent
This underpins why it is so important that the police are not a tool of their political masters. They should be totally independent of the Home office. The plain fact is that the victims of the pub bombings cannot have their lives back. The IRA wins again not only because it will never come clean over the issue but because it can make political capital out of this. When Gerry Adams or McGuiness stand up and make a full and public apology and say what went on so that the guilty can be arrested, then this might be a start. Now I am appalled when any person is wrongfully convicted, but have the public been duped again and is this only a political ploy to keep Bertie Ahern on side?
Tony, Welling Kent

These men were convicted by a jury based on Police evidence. "The Government" and "The Judiciary" are not (we hope) able to influence the deliberations in the jury room. The fault, if fingers need to be pointed, therefore lies with the quality of the evidence produced for the prosecution. It follows that any Ministerial apology is entirely synthetic and political in nature.
Frank Holden, Dolton Devon

So Tony Blair has made an apology, surely all that matters is whether or not the families concerned are happy - and it seems they are
Debbie Sheppard, Tadworth, Surrey

Is this apology meant as some kind of sop to the people who have argued this for years?
Terry G, UK
Tony Blair is a politician. Not a head of state. By taking this step he is effectively admitting these convictions were a political act, and the people political prisoners. Is this apology meant as some kind of sop to the people who have argued this for years?
Terry G, UK

I agree that as a country we should apologise for our mistakes, and over Ireland we have made many over hundreds of years. And I can see the tradition of prime ministers apologising for their predecessors "errors". Can we therefore expect the next Prime Minister (Mr G Brown) to apologise to those 1000's of dead Iraqi's who have been killed since Mr Blair decided to take this country to war to free the people.
NH Boot, Sheffield

No amount of apologies can right the dreadful wrongs that were done first to the victims of the bombings and their families and then to those wrongly convicted and their families. Some on here have accused Tony Blair of cynical opportunism but the true cynics are those who cannot accept that it is possible for politicians to act genuinely and responsibly.
John, Hove

Great Britain should put its money where its mouth is and give financial retribution
Franco Farrugia, Malta
I don't think that a simple apology is enough! I think that the state of Great Britain should put its money where its mouth is and give financial retribution to the afflicted families. We are talking here of the State having brought so much unhappiness and problems to these families and their members! I think it is not a mere question of the PM apologising by word of mouth! It should be translated into more, much more than that!
Franco Farrugia, Malta

Looking at the comments made by the families, it seems to have given them some closure and something positive. Can we expect the same from Sinn Fein for the people of Guildford?
Dan, Leeds

Blair's apologised for the fact that the courts locked up four men by mistake. As a step towards ensuring this doesn't happen again, the Home Secretary recently announced that in future the courts won't be involved!
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK

Mr Ahern and Mr Blair seem to have forgotten about the actual victims of the Guildford bombings. I think it would have been appropriate if the IRA also issued an apology today to the victims and families of the deceased caused by this terrible atrocity.
Neil Lane, London

It is part of a long tradition for prime ministers to apologise for things that did not happen on their watch
Louise B, Liverpool, UK
I see the Tony Blair knockers are out in force today. It is part of a long tradition for prime ministers to apologise for things that did not happen on their watch. It is also part of a long tradition for people to want apologies from "the Government". In this instance he is acting as a figurehead not as an individual.
Louise B, Liverpool, UK

I'm amazed at some of the comments that I've read here about Blair's motives. He's apologising because he has been asked to by the families and Bertie Ahern and because no-one in Britain has done so before. Not for his own gains, or at his own choice of timing. I'm glad he has done this, it's a shame no-one had the bottle before.
Alex, London

Why is Tony Blair making an apology, and why now? What is the agenda? Things are never what they seem.
Chris Parker, Buckingham

I am one of the victims of the Guildford Bombings and am unable express the shock I felt when I heard about Mr Blair's apology to the Conlon and Maguire families imprisoned for the Guildford Bombings. I am wondering when myself, other victims, and relatives of the deceased as a result of IRA atrocities can expect an apology from the IRA. I can remember that night in Guildford as if it happened one week or a month ago, never mind thirty years ago.
Deborah, Cumbria

How can Tony Blair apologise for something he bears no responsibility for? Oh yes good publicity!
Rose, Bristol, UK

It's easy for Tony Blair to apologise for someone else's mistakes, but I'd prefer it if he started apologising for some of his own!
Tony Brooks, Cambridge, UK

I'm happy for the Conlon and Maguire families, but intrigued by the timing. He's had so many years to do this. There's an election coming up and he's at his least popular since becoming leader of the Labour Party, let alone PM.
Nisha, London

These families have been, as your site states, "victims of one of the UK's biggest miscarriages of justice". An apology should have been forthcoming as soon as this was known, rather than 20 years after the event itself. An apology in the Commons would, however, have been a more representative and fitting way to apologise for wrongfully detaining these people and depriving them of their liberty. A small price to pay in comparison.
Ali, Glasgow

This smacks to me of yet another Blair publicity stunt
Ieuan Johns, Port Talbot, UK
First of all I appreciate the suffering felt by the two families and this should in no way be a reflection on them but they have been used by Blair in the most callous way. If he wants to call them and personally (and privately) apologise in sympathy then that's his right to do so. However he has no right or reason to make such a statement for any other body. This smacks to me of yet another Blair publicity stunt I'm afraid.
Ieuan Johns, Port Talbot, UK

The apology in principle was the right thing to do, the miscarriage of justice is exceptional in the number of closely related people who were imprisoned incorrectly simply for being associates. But at the end of the day, Blair is not responsible for this - that government is long gone. It would have been better for the apology to have been made in Parliament where it can be recorded into Hansard and where it can be endorsed by the representatives of the British people.
David Bourne, Aberystwyth, Wales

I am not comfortable about a prime minister making an apology for what must be a judicial mistake. It smacks too much of publicity for Tony Blair.
Noel Dobson, York, N. Yorks

Where is justice for victims of the Guilford pub bombings? Where is the justice for the victims of the Birmingham pub bombs? When is someone like Jim Sheridan going to make an film of an ordinary family in Guilford or Birmingham whose family member went out one night to enjoy a quiet drink but never came home? Gerry Conlon is alive to plead his case for an apology, the victims of Guilford and Birmingham are not.
Mike Neal, Manchester, UK

So Mike from Manchester and Derek from Birmingham think there shouldn't be an apology to people who were wrongly imprisoned until the actual bombers also apologise? Do they not understand what 'miscarriage of justice' means?
Jim, Cambridge

No - why should he? It was not his mistake and he was not even in power then. Politicians should keep out errors made in the judicial system.
Ged, Westbury, UK

Apologies are all well and good, if they are reciprocated. The people of Birmingham are STILL waiting for a sincere apology for the bombings of November 1974.
Derek, Birmingham

I think it fitting that Tony Blair should apologise
P. D. Cooper, Aberystwyth, Wales
Given the intense politicisation of the intelligence gathering arm of the security forces at the time of the Conlon/Maguire sagas, I think it fitting that Tony Blair should apologise, as an authority figure. These families suffered terribly, and it is the systems that run the country which should take the blame.
P. D. Cooper, Aberystwyth, Wales

OK, he has apologised to these people, despite not being responsible for what happened to them. Can we now expect him to apologise to all the people in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay who suffered at least in part as a result of his decisions?
Max Sommers, Athens, Greece

It's good practice for him. He's got all those currently held without benefit of trial etc to think about.
Deborah Parr, Cambridge, England

It's not for Tony Blair to apologise as he's had no input to the case. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary of the day should have apologised.
Frank, Leeds, UK

No. The apology should have come in 1989. It's a disgrace that they had to wait all these years.
Dan, UK

The Conlon and Maguire families have suffered terribly, but in Britain the judiciary and parliament are meant to be independent of each other. Politicians shouldn't be accountable for judges (and the police's) mistakes. Blair wasn't even an MP when they were sentenced and the convictions were overturned under Thatcher. I fail to see what he's got to do with it.
Peter, Nottingham

On whose behalf is he apologising? The police, CPS, jury, judge, the public? It's the worst kind of gesture politics and completely meaningless.
Anonymous




SEE ALSO:
PM apology over IRA bomb jailings
09 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland


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