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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 12:54 GMT
'Glaring' miscarriage of justice
Denis Murray
Analysis
By Denis Murray
BBC Ireland correspondent

Gerry Conlon
Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four
The Guildford Four, as they came to be known, were among around 20 people who were wrongfully convicted of IRA attacks in England during the 1970s.

Eleven people in all were jailed in connection with IRA attacks on pubs in Woolwich and Guildford in 1974, in what were glaring and grotesque miscarriages of justice.

The case is perhaps best remembered because of the film In the Name of the Father, which recounted the case - not without factual errors according to some of the real people involved.

It's been clear for some time that Mr Blair has been more than prepared to make such an apology.
Denis Murray
BBC Ireland correspondent
The four were convicted in 1975 of the bombing of two pubs the year before.

They were released in 1989 after it was discovered Surrey police had fabricated evidence, and their convictions were quashed. The pubs were popular with off-duty soldiers: four soldiers and a civilian were killed in one of the no-warning attacks.

Family connection

The four, and another seven people known as the Maguire Seven who were also wrongfully convicted of related offences, always protested their innocence.

The seven were all arrested because of a family connection to Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the miscarriages of justice was to do with his father, Giuseppe Conlon.

He travelled from Belfast to London to help arrange legal representation for his son, but within hours of arriving, he too was arrested, and later convicted on related charges, as one of the Maguire Seven.

Mr Conlon died in prison.

Anne Maguire was the relative with whom Mr Conlon planned to stay. All her family, and two friends were also jailed for handling explosives - convictions which were based on scientific evidence which was later discredited.

Formal apology

Prime Minister Tony Blair wrote last April to the leader of the nationalist SDLP in Northern Ireland, expressing his regret at the miscarriages of justice.

Both that party, the Irish Government and the Conlon family have been seeking a formal apology from the British government.

It's been clear for some time that Mr Blair has been more than prepared to make such an apology.

For the Conlon and Maguire families, it won't bring back Giuseppe, or their lost years in prison, but does go some way to give public relief to their private wounds, for which, by any standards was a shocking failure in a system of justice held up to the rest of world as the fairest.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Watch Tony Blair's apology





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


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