Today, everyone at MOJO remembers our friend, former director and client Gerry Conlon on what would have been his sixty-eight birthday
Gerry was born to his father Giuseppe Conlon and mother Sarah on 1 March 1954. Born and brought up in Belfast, he described his childhood as happy.
In 1974, aged only 20, Gerry travelled to England to escape the regular violence of Belfast.
In December 1974 the police arrested three men and a woman, later known as the Guildford Four: Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson. Gerry, and his co-accused, were tortured in order to obtain a confession for the Guildford and Woolwich Pub bombings.
In October 1975 these four were convicted of the murder of five people and the injuring of dozens more and given life sentences.
Vital evidence which would have exonerated Gerry and proved he could not have been responsible for the bombings was held back by the police at his original trial.
On 19 October 1989, The Guildford Four were exonerated on appeal and released from prison. By this stage, their ordeal had lasted fifteen years.
Upon release from prison, Gerry campaigned for the release of the Maguire Seven, a group of Gerry’s relatives also wrongfully convicted for the bombing campaign, and the Birmingham Six. He continued to campaign in order to give a voice to all victims of miscarriages of justice, in the United Kingdom and across the world.
The Maguire Seven, like Gerry, spent years in prison for a crime they had not committed. Among them, Gerry’s father, Giuseppe Conlon, who had travelled to London to help his son mount a legal defence, died in prison in 1980, before being able to clear his name. In 1991, the Maguire Seven were also exonerated and, later in 1994, the Birmingham Six.
Gerry described his ordeal and the injustice he suffered in his book, Proved Innocent, which was later made into the 1993 biopic In the Name of the Father.
Like so many of our service users, Gerry found adjusting to life outside of prison extremely challenging. His suffering did not stop at the point of exoneration and Gerry reported struggling with drugs and alcohol and suffering from multiple nervous breakdowns.
After a prolonged battle with illness, Gerry passed away in his native Belfast on 21 June 2014.
We will always remember the spirit shown by Gerry in the face of the damage done to him and to so many others. We at MOJO will continue to support victims of miscarriages of justice in his memory.
Today we would also like Gerry’s family to know we are thinking of them, and send our love.