Gerry Conlon: New book a 'fearless' account of years after his release

Irish News editor Noel Doran with Gerry Conlan's sister Ann and author Richard O'Rawe. Picture by Matt Bohill

A NEW book about the late Gerry Conlon tells "the truth about the human condition", its Belfast launch heard last night.

In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story was written by his close friend, former republican prisoner Richard O'Rawe, who grew up with him in west Belfast.

Launched at the Crescent Arts Centre in south Belfast, and including a forward from Hollywood star Johnny Depp, it reveals previously unknown details of Mr Conlon's wrongful conviction for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings.

The Guildford Four - who also included Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson - were convicted of the attacks which killed four British soldiers and a civilian.

Gerry Conlon's father Giuseppe, and members of the Maguire family - known as the Maguire Seven - were also arrested and wrongly convicted.

The Guildford Four were finally released in 1989 after spending 15 years behind bars in what is regarded as one of the worst miscarriages of justice in British legal history.

One of Mr Conlon's sisters Ann McKernan joined the family's solicitor Kevin Winters, victims' campaigner Máiría Cahill and SDLP politicians Margaret Walsh, Alban Maginness and Alex Attwood among guests at last night's launch.

Irish News editor Noel Doran told the audience that the book "tells us with full and fearless honesty about what really happened to Gerry" after his release.

"Ricky explains what followed and why there had to be an apology at the highest level offered to the Guildford Four, Giuseppe Conlon and of course the Maguire Seven, wrongly implicated by Gerry under severe duress in a way which we must acknowledge had disastrous and traumatic consequences, and we remember all the victims of violence and injustice in all sections of our divided society tonight," he said.

In 2005, Mr Conlon asked the The Irish News to organise a petition for a public apology to both the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven to mark the 25th anniversary of his father's death in prison.

Just a fortnight after the proposal, then British Prime Minister Tony Blair apologised to those convicted.

"Like many people, I seriously underestimated Gerry Conlon, who linked up with his Falls Road neighbour and former city councillor Margaret Walsh and my colleague Marie Louise McConville," Mr Doran said.

"I did my best to help and between them all, with a little bit of Gerry's magic along the way, they were in the prime minister's office in London astonishingly within two weeks for the full public expression of regret from Tony Blair."

During his address to the crowd, Mr O'Rawe also highlighted the role of Mr Conlon's mother Sarah who regularly made the long trip to England to visit her son during his incarceration.

She died from lung cancer in 2008, aged 82.

Mr Conlon, who also battled lung cancer, died in June 2014 at the age of 60.

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