'Guildford Four' member in election broadcast

A member of the Guildford Four is to feature in a party election broadcast for the Northern Ireland Assembly today.

A member of the Guildford Four is to feature in a party election broadcast for the Northern Ireland Assembly today.

Gerry Conlon, one of four people wrongfully imprisoned for an IRA bombing in Guildford in 1974 which killed five people, is to feature in a broadcast by Mark Durkan’s nationalist SDLP.

The election film will be screened in Northern Ireland tonight and a radio version will also be transmitted.

Mr Conlon’s father Guiseppe and the Maguire family, who were related to him, were also wrongfully jailed for involvement in the Guildford and Woolwich bombings.

Guiseppe Conlon died in prison in 1980 following respiratory problems.

In October 1989, the Court of Appeal overturned the convictions of the Guildford Four following a campaign by the families, Catholic Church leaders in Ireland and England, politicians, journalists and human rights activists.

The Guildford Four’s story was turned into the controversial movie, In the Name of the Father, by Irish director Jim Sheridan which earned rave reviews and several Oscar nominations.

The film starred Daniel Day Lewis as Gerry Conlon, Pete Postlethwaite as Guiseppe and Emma Thompson as their lawyer, Garth Pierce.

The SDLP’s election broadcast is a variation of a film aired in May during the initial Assembly Election campaign which was aborted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair amid concerns over the IRA’s intentions towards the peace process.

Last week Downing Street gave the go ahead for a November 26 Assembly election but saw a painstakingly choreographed peace process deal also involving Sinn Féin, the decommissioning body and Ulster Unionists falter over the lack of information about IRA disarmament.

The SDLP’s film, which will be launched by Mr Durkan in the party’s new press centre in Belfast. The film also features Marion Quinn, a Derry woman targeted several times and threatened by hard-line republicans because of her participation on a local police board.

Last night, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble and his wife Daphne formed the basis of his party’s election broadcast built around the new slogan ’Simply British’.

After a meeting last night with party officers, Mr Trimble pulled plans for a meeting on Wednesday night of his 900-member ruling council on the peace process.

Ulster Unionist chairman James Cooper said the party was going to proceed with its election campaign and place the onus on republicans to live up to their commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

The SDLP is facing a tough battle with Sinn Féin to emerge as the biggest nationalist party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mark Durkan’s party had more six seats at Stormont during the last Assembly but in the 2001 Westminster elections, Sinn Féin had four MPs to the SDLP’s three and edged in front in the battle for the popular vote.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble had the largest number of seats in 1998 but this time is facing a fierce battle for supremacy from the Rev Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists.

The DUP were due to launch an attack today on their pro-Good Friday Agreement rivals about rate increases and water charges if the British government sticks with its current formula for devolution.

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