Belfast Telegraph

I won't get justice but I'm not bitter, says Guildford Four's Paddy

By Leona O'Neill

One of the Guildford Four has said he has given up hope of getting answers on why he was imprisoned for 15 years for a crime he did not commit.

In 1974 Paddy Armstrong, then 24, was wrongly convicted alongside Gerry Conlon, Carole Richardson and Paul Hill of two pub bombings in the garrison town.

The blasts killed five people and injured 65 more. The four were sentenced to life in prison.

All convictions were overturned in the Court of Appeal when it was proved that confessions had been obtained by torture, and the four walked free in October 1989.

Paddy said he didn't feel any bitterness despite spending most of his 20s and all of his 30s behind bars, but doesn't think he will ever get answers on why he was wrongly imprisoned.

"I hold no bitterness at all," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"When you are bitter and hate people it does you and your family more harm than it does them.

"There is only one policeman left who arrested and questioned me. The rest of them have died, I've been told. I don't hold any bitterness towards him, not really.

"I've never been a bitter person. People can't understand that, but that is the way I was brought up. I've never had an apology from the people who did it to me, the policemen never faced any conviction, although we did get an apology from Tony Blair.

"When you look at it, no one was ever convicted of the Guildford pub bombings. People have the right to know what happened. People have the right to know why we were put in prison for something we didn't do.

"I don't think I'll get any answers in my lifetime. There's poor Gerry dead and Carole dead, there's only me and Paul left. We are in our 60s and if it hasn't come out by now, I don't think it ever will.

"I think they are just waiting to get rid of us all before they release any details about what happened."

Paddy documented his struggle to cope with the outside world after his release from prison in his book Life After Life. He said he was saved from ruination by his lawyer.

"Only for my solicitor Alastair Logan, I don't know where I'd be," he explained. "He took me into his house outside Guildford after I got out.

"He got a down payment from the British Government, but I ended up drinking, gambling and smoking it.

"He sat me down one day and said 'that's it', and he took over my money and got two doctors who dealt with soldiers coming back from war or people who had been in prison a long time.

"I saw them for six months and that sorted my head out. Only for him doing that for me, I don't know where I'd be."

After being released Paddy moved to Dublin and met his wife Caroline, who has two brothers in the Garda.

He proposed to Caroline in their local pub and they have been married for 19 years. They have two teenage children, JP and Sophie.

He said he always remained friends with Gerry Conlon, who passed away in June 2014.

Paddy went to Guildford recently while making a documentary and was shown the spot where one of the bombs went off.

"The owner of the bar came out and shook my hand and said he was sorry to hear what had happened to me," he said.

"They had a remembrance garden there. They invited me in but I said I felt a bit strange. They said to come on in as I hadn't done anything wrong.

"I went in there and there were people there who shook my hand. Alastair put up a plaque for Carole and he's going back to put up one for Gerry."

Although he now lives in Dublin, Paddy follows the happenings in his home town of Belfast and the local politics. He feels the Stormont impasse is not good for victims.

"Stormont and the Good Friday Agreement were hard fought for," he said. "Stormont needs to be there and stay there. The victims issue needs to be sorted out."

Paddy will be speaking at a Towards Understanding and Healing event in Londonderry's Holywell Trust on December 1 with Mary Elaine Tynan, the ghostwriter of his book.

Belfast Telegraph

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