Belfast Telegraph

Monday 20 October 2014

Campaigner Gerry Conlon buried: Birmingham MP to make Commons tribute in House of Commons

Mourners pay their respects at Gerry Conlon's funeral in west Belfast
Female relatives carry the coffin of Gerry Conlon from St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast
Members of the Alabama 3 pop band at the funeral

An MP whose Birmingham constituency was devastated in an IRA bomb atrocity has tabled a motion in the House of Commons this week to pay tribute to Gerry Conlon.

The 60-year-old west Belfast man – one of four people wrongly imprisoned for the 1974 IRA Guildford pub bombings – was buried on Saturday, weeks after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Roger Godsiff MP, who represents Birmingham Hall Green – which was bombed by the IRA more than four decades ago – has sponsored a Westminster Early Day Motion to pay tribute to Mr Conlon.

And the lawyer who campaigned for Mr Conlon's freedom told mourners at his Requiem Mass on Saturday that he had departed victorious from a life that dealt him a poor hand. Gareth Peirce referred to the image of him emerging from the Old Bailey in London 15 years after he was jailed and declaring his innocence after his conviction was quashed.

"This was a victorious human being who had defeated a mighty foe," she told hundreds who gathered to pay their respects inside St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast.

Paddy Hill, who was one of six men wrongly convicted of IRA bombings in Birmingham, also in 1974, was among those who helped carry the coffin.

Mr Conlon was played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father directed by Jim Sheridan and written by Terry George, who also carried the coffin.

Mrs Peirce told mourners of Mr Conlon's struggles with life in the years after his release, living like a recluse in England and developing a drug habit. But she said he overcame those difficulties and returned to Belfast to be with his mother in the year before she died.

"Life dealt Gerry a pretty poor hand. He was a gambler and gambling was in his DNA but with a poor hand he made a magnificent fist of it. If anyone thinks that this is someone who was beaten or terrified and pushed down forever, that wasn't so," she said.

She added: "We can say with all the adversities, in the end Gerry Conlon won –the victory was his."

In his homily, Fr Ciaran Dallat said Mr Conlon felt he was responsible for the death of his dad in prison.

"In the master's house, the place that Jesus has prepared in heaven, we trust that Guiseppe and Sarah are there and he will truly be at peace at last."

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was among a number of dignitaries at the funeral. Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey was also there, as was SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell and campaigner Raymond McCord.

Mr Conlon, who is survived by his partner Alison, daughter Sarah and family members, was buried in Milltown cemetery.

Background

Gerry Conlon and the rest of the Guildford Four – Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson – got life sentences in 1975 for IRA attacks in Guildford which killed five people and injured 65, before their convictions were overturned in 1989. An investigation by Avon and Somerset Police found serious flaws in the way Surrey Police handled the case. The trial judge Mr Justice Donaldson told them: "If hanging were still an option, you would have been executed." It was one of the best-known cases of a miscarriage of justice in British legal history.

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