“It was his eyes that got me. Eyes that simultaneously exuded wisdom and a childlike purity; a desire to live and love. There was no question that these powerful eyes had seen and experienced much. This was Gerry Conlon,” the actor wrote about the pair’s first meeting.
In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story is a new book by Richard O’Rawe, a former Irish republican prisoner and a leading figure in the 1981 Hunger Strike in the H Blocks of the Maze prison.
Depp first came across Gerry Conlon in an actors’ agency in California in 1990, a year after his release from prison, when his story was being turned into an Oscar-winning movie, In the Name of the Father.
The actor said that Gerry invited him to play him in a movie about his life and how the exchange had both men in tears.
Depp remembered being “more than touched at this profoundly personal invitation from this man. I was already on the deck wiping away tears (as was he) when he gave the first details of his abduction and torture by the British authorities”.
Depp’s foreword goes on to describe how the pair holidayed together in 1991, alongside members of the Conlon family. The actor recalled a long night out in Limerick involving multiple pints of Guinness.
Depp also referred to Gerry’s principled campaigning for the Birmingham Six and international issues such as the rights of Native Americans as well as indigenous Australians.
He also addressed Gerry’s struggles with drugs saying how “he got off his knees and he beat the monster”.
The foreword closes by describing the book as a “tour de force, a warts-and-all depiction of the life of Gerry Conlon from the minute he walked out of the Old Bailey”.
The book was published last Friday but its foreword has already drawn criticism because of its reference to Limerick as “Stab City”.
Local Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea has criticised Depp for libelling Limerick with an “unfair” description of the city.
“He’s basing this on a visit back in 1991. Not only was Stab City the wrong designation in 1991, but in 2017, it is so out of date it is laughable. It’s a libel on a city. It was always a grossly unfair and grossly overstated description of Limerick.
“We have worked very hard and come an awful long way and I think it’s very unfortunate that someone would choose to resurrect this insult,” he said.