Blair urged to name victims’ commissioner

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair is under renewed pressure to appoint a victims’ commissioner in the North following his public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds asked on a day when the British Government was in the mood for making apologies, what is it doing about the long overdue creation of a victims' commissioner for the North.

Mr Blair issued the public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families for their wrongful imprisonment for the IRA bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974.

Gerry Conlon, Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson, were arrested in 1974 and jailed in 1975 for life for the bombings. They became known as the Guildford Four. Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong were also jailed for the Woolwich bombing in which two people died.

Later Gerry Conlon's father, Giuseppe, and members of the Maguire family they became known as the Maguire Seven were arrested and jailed. Anne Maguire, from Willesden, London, and her family were convicted of possessing nitro-glycerine which was allegedly passed to the IRA to make bombs.

Sinn Féin said it hoped that the apology from Mr Blair to the Conlon and Maguire families would help end their decades-long ordeal.

After the meeting, Mr Conlon and the other family members held aloft copies of Mr Blair's statement. They said they were pleased with his words.

"We can't say who the speaker will pick, or who he won't pick, but Tony Blair picked us. He didn't have to do it and he did it and that is the important thing.

"He apologised profusely and he was physically taken aback by the suffering that we have all suffered."

Annie Maguire said: "This is very important to my family and their children and our great-grandchildren. We would like it to be the police and that apologising. It is lovely for Mr Blair to do it."

Her son Patrick said the arrests shattered his family and his childhood dreams.

"Going to prison, the fears, the loneliness, the not knowing, having five birthdays and Christmases away from my family. I just became a number, 33892.

"Into my late 30s I started to realise it was all catching up with me, that some damage had been done, so I got into drinking and taking drugs. I knew it was wrong, I wasn't brought up to be like that.

"My own three children have also paid the price, because their father is not the man he would like to have been. For them, this day is their day, and I would like to say sorry to them."

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