Northern Ireland news

Concerns raised after Guildford Four files closed

Flanked by his sisters, Gerry Conlon emerges from the Old Bailey in London after the Guildford Four's convictions were quashed in October 1989
Connla Young

THE British government has been accused of treating the family of Gerry Conlon with contempt after files relating to the Guildford Four were sealed until the end of this century.

Author Richard O'Rawe spoke out after it emerged that documents linked to the case will not be made public for decades.

The Guildford Four, which included Mr Conlon, Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, were wrongfully convicted of two pub bombings in Guildford in October 1974, which killed four British soldiers and a civilian.

They were released in 1989 after 15 years behind bars.

Members of an IRA unit - the `Balcombe Street Gang' - later confirmed they were responsible but were never charged.

More than 700 files linked to the case were due to be released last week but the Home Office has now said they will remain closed.

The files are connected to an inquiry by retired judge Sir John May which took place between 1989 and 1994 into the wrongful convictions of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.

Mr O'Rawe, who is the author In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story, has raised concerns.

"This further embargo tells us that the British government is afraid to release the files,” he said.

"Why? Because they will show that the evidence points to the British police knowing from the very start that the Guildford Four were completely innocent, and furthermore, that they were not in the IRA."

"The Conlon family have, and still are, being treated with utter contempt by the British government. Guiseppe, Sarah, and Gerry are dead. Only Bridie still lives. She is convinced, as was Gerry before her, that what happened to the Guildford Four was no miscarriage of justice, but instead was an old-fashioned frame-up of innocent people - any Irish people would do."

The BBC reported that the Home Office sought the extended closure of 668 files in November and that those files were temporarily returned to the Home Office from Kew, where the British national archives are located, at the request of the British government.

It later emerged that the majority of the files are now closed for either 84 or 100 years from their original date.

Some may not now be opened until the 2090s.

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “The Surrey Coroner announced last year that he will reopen the inquest into the 1974 Guildford bombings.

"The Home Office is carefully considering the release to the public of files relating to Sir John May's 1994 Inquiry into the bombings, and any impact this could have on future inquest proceedings or investigations."

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