Campaigning sister of Guildford Four's Gerry Conlon is laid to rest
A woman who fought for the release of her brother Gerry Conlon and father Giuseppe after they were wrongfully convicted over the Guildford pub bombings had a heart of gold but also steel, mourners heard yesterday.
Ann McKernan (58) had been to the fore of a campaign to establish the truth over those wrongly convicted for the atrocity in Surrey in 1974. Five people were killed and 65 injured in the IRA blasts.
Her brother Gerry — one of the Guildford Four — had his conviction quashed in 1989 after serving 15 years, but their father Patrick Giuseppe Conlon died in 1980 after four years in prison. Gerry (60) died of lung cancer in 2014.
Mrs McKernan passed away on Easter Monday at her home at Roden Street in Belfast. Requiem Mass was held at St Peter’s Cathedral in the city.
Fr Martin Graham told mourners that Ann had a “heart full of love, a heart of gold, but also a heart of steel.”
He said: “Ann was a woman who held her head with dignity with her jaw firmly set when others may have kept their head down.
“She was aged 58 but looked older than her years, because her life was not easy.
“She had to grow up quickly. She left school at the age of 13 to help her mother Sarah after Gerry was arrested and sentenced and Giuseppe a couple of years later.
“The prison sentences of Gerry and Giuseppe were not only their sentences. They affected the whole family.
“Ann fought for years, even after Gerry’s release, to make sure that no one else was ever going to be in that same situation.
“Gerry and Ann had a strong bond from an early age and although he was older by six years, it was Ann who told him what to do.
“She may have been a slightly built woman but her big brother knew never to mess with her.”
Fr Graham described Mrs McKernan as a “typical Belfast mammy” doing her best to keep daughters Sarah, Joanne, Mary Kate and Bronagh “on their toes”.
He said: “Ann’s party piece was singing and dancing to the song Spirit In The Sky and finishing with a cartwheel.”
Referring to the words of the famous chart-topping song — “When I die and they lay me to rest, I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best” — he said that was the image Mrs McKernan would want mourners to have of her in their minds.
Fr Graham added that when she died on Monday she left behind a “very tough life”.
Burial took place at Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery.
A pre-inquest review into the Guildford bombings is due to take place later this year.