The victims of one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice will travel to the House of Commons today in the hope that Tony Blair will publicly apologise for their wrongful imprisonment.
Members of the Conlon and Maguire families will attend Prime Minister’s Questions to see if Mr Blair will comment on the wrongful jailing of 11 people for IRA bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974.
SDLP MP Eddie McGrady will try today to put a question to Mr Blair on the cases of the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.
The family of father and son, Gerry and Guiseppe Conlon has been seeking a public apology from the British government for the miscarriage of justice after a letter to SDLP leader Mark Durkan privately acknowledged the wrong done to the family.
A source close to the campaign said: “There are indications that the British government is ready to publicly acknowledge the terrible injustice experienced by the Conlon and Maguire families. Hopefully that apology will come during Question Time in the House today.”
Gerry Conlon was one of four people – Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson were the others – arrested in 1974 and wrongfully jailed for an IRA bomb attack on the Horse and Groom pub in Guildford.
The blast killed five people – four soldiers and a civilian.
The four prisoners became known as the Guildford Four.
Gerry Conlon’s father and members of Annie Maguire’s family were also later arrested and jailed for the attack and other bombings in Woolwich, south-east London following confessions extracted by the police which allegedly identified them as being involved.
Guiseppe Conlon, who had a history of bronchial problems, died in prison while serving his sentence in January 1980.
In October 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed the sentences of the Guildford Four after doubts were raised about the police evidence.
In June 1991, the Court of Appeal also overturned the sentences on the Maguires and Guiseppe Conlon.
The case was brought to international attention through the Oscar nominated movie In the Name of the Father, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Gerry Conlon and Pete Postlethwaite as Guiseppe.
Daniel Day Lewis and ’In the Name of the Father’ director Jim Sheridan have joined thousands of people in recent weeks who have signed a petition on behalf of the Conlon family seeking official recognition from the British Government that they were innocent.
An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Mark Durkan lobbied Mr Blair directly during Downing Street meetings last week.
Last month, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy also signalled Mr Blair would make a public apology to the Conlons.