In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story by Richard O’Rawe (Merrion Press, £15.99)
ALONG with Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong and Carole Richardson, Gerry Conlon was one of the so-called Guildford Four. In 1975, these young people were arrested and convicted of carrying out the IRA pub bombings in Guildford and Woolwich, in which seven died and 65 were injured.
All the confessions were extracted by the police under conditions that can only be described as torture. They were unlucky to be Irish in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A year after their convictions, the police arrested the real bombers who admitted their guilt. But the political and judicial establishments would not admit that they had made a mistake and release the four.
It was not until October 1989 that they finally won their appeal. But, even in 2017, evidence showing how the false evidence used to convict Conlon and the others is still being withheld under the Official Secrets Act.
Richard O’Rawe, a lifelong friend of Conlon, was asked by him a year before he died, to write his biography and it’s unlikely that anyone else could have written this book. Conlon may have left prison in 1989 but O’Rawe shows how he never really escaped the nightmare of those 15 years, which included the death of his father Giuseppe in prison.
Once free, Conlon worked hard to get the release of the Birmingham Six, but he also took a familiar road for many ex-prisoners of drink, drugs, sex and, in his case, “celebrity” friends — as such, it’s a book that often screams “too much information.”
Today, many in Britain will be unaware of what life was like for the Irish in this country in the 1970s. Conlon’s story, like that of many others, was part of the unfinished history between Britain and Ireland.
Now it is Muslims who are the suspect community and, if anything, Conlon’s story is a warning of how grassroots campaigns are needed to prevent future miscarriages of justice.