Blair preparing statement in Gerry Conlon case

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing a public statement on the wrongful imprisonment of a Belfast father and son for IRA bombings, he confirmed tonight.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing a public statement on the wrongful imprisonment of a Belfast father and son for IRA bombings, he confirmed tonight.

During a meeting with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in Downing Street, Mr Blair discussed the case of Gerry Conlon of the Guildford Four and his father Guiseppe.

The family has received a private acknowledgement of the miscarriage of justice which was highlighted in the Oscar nominated film In the Name of the Father, starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

They have been pressing for a public apology.

When asked after today’s meeting about the Conlons’ case, the British Prime Minister would only say: “I will be saying something about it shortly.”

Five people died when the IRA planted a bomb in the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford in October 1974.

Gerry Conlon was one of four people initially detained after the Guildford attack, which claimed the lives of four soldiers and a civilian.

His father Guiseppe was one of seven people also detained in connection with the attack.

The Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven were jailed in connection with the attack and other bombings in Woolwich, south-east London.

Guiseppe Conlon, who had a history of bronchial problems, died in prison in 1980 while serving his sentence.

After a number of MPs, church leaders, journalists and legal figures raised concerns about the convictions, the Court of Appeal in October 1989 quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four.

In June 1991 it overturned the sentences on the Maguire Seven, although all of them had served their full terms.

The Conlons’ case came to international attention in Jim Sheridan’s movie In The Name Of The Father, in which Day-Lewis played Gerry and Pete Postlethwaite played Guiseppe.

Last week, Gerry Conlon and nationalist SDLP leader Mark Durkan met Mr Ahern to urge him to lobby Mr Blair for a public apology.

A petition has also been drawn up and signed by more than 10,000 people, including Jim Sheridan.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Muprhy said at the weekend he believed Mr Blair would issue a public apology on behalf of the Government.

The issue was also raised at a meeting in Downing Street between Mark Durkan of the SDLP and the British Prime Minister.

Following his talks with the Prime Minister, Mr Durkan said that Mr Blair had indicated that he was ready to issue a public apology to the Conlon family.

“What we want to see is a public apology, unambiguous, clearly addressed to the family and the Prime Minister has indicated that he is minded to do that and will be doing that at an opportunity soon. He will also be writing to the family,” he said.

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