One of the Birmingham Six has vowed to launch legal action against the British Government unless he gets a public apology.
Paddy Hill – who was released from prison 15 years ago this week – slammed Prime Minister Tony Blair for not acknowledging their plight when he openly said sorry to the families of Gerry Conlon and Annie McGuire last year.
Like the Birmingham Six, Conlon and McGuire had been wrongfully convicted for IRA bomb attacks in the UK the 1970s. They served 15 years in prison.
Legal proceedings will also be taken over the Government’s failure to reintegrate the men back into society, according to Mr Hill, 62, who runs the Miscarriage of Justice organisation from his Scottish home.
“I have no idea why he left us out,” he said, referring to Mr Blair.
“I wrote to him and told him I commended him for having the courage to stand up and do it (apologise), but told him I was a bit disappointed that while he was apologising to the Conlon and McGuire families he didn’t apologise to the other Irish great miscarriage of justices in the 1970s, namely Judith Ward and the Birmingham Six.
“A few weeks later I got a letter from Anthony Phillips (his private secretary) telling me Tony Blair would be writing to me when it was appropriate, but I’ve never had a word since then.
“I did send word back to them two weeks ago telling them I was going to take action against them.”
Mr Hill told RTE radio the past 15 years had been very hard, but he thought little of the anniversary of his release.
“I’ll never forget what happened to me and I never forget when we were looking for help everybody slammed the door in our faces,” Mr Hill said.
“People have this perception that we came out and got a load of money and everybody kisses and makes up and we all ride in to the sunset. Unfortunately it’s nothing like that.”
In Lancaster in 1975, the six Birmingham based Irishmen – Paddy Hill, Bill Power, Dick McIlkenny, Hugh Callaghan, Gerry Hunter and John Walker – were sentenced to life imprisonment for a Birmingham bombing which killed 21 people and maimed or seriously injured 161.
Despite pleas that the confessions had been obtained because of beatings by warders and ill treatment, the case was initially upheld on appeal. The men were eventually freed on March 14, 1991.
In 2000 Mr Hill was offered a final settlement of more than £960,000 – with £50,000 charged for bed and board for his years behind bars.
Mr Hill said he could accept his jail term if it had guaranteed no other miscarriages of justice and been carried out in the UK.
“You come out and you’re on a high,” Mr Hill continued. “But there was no help at all out here for us, we have to fight for everything. We had absolutely no counselling when we got out.
“Unfortunately for all the miscarriages of justice victims, one day you’re sitting in a prison cell. At 8 o’clock that morning the door is opened, the next thing you know is you’re in the prison van, you’re up at the Court of Appeal and if you’re lucky and win your appeal later that afternoon you’re dumped on the court steps with half a dozen bin liner bags with your few possession and legal papers.
“They give you a £50 discharge grant and a one way rail ticket to wherever you come from. That is it, goodbye.”
Although having a home, Mr Hill spent almost the first year of his release sleeping rough in a nearby park to feel the fresh air around him. Shortly afterwards he was diagnosed with depression.
He said: “A psychiatrist told me I had been living under a state of depression for so long it was normal, and I’m still not alright today. I felt like I was coming apart at the seems.
“One minute I’d by sitting there fine and there would be nothing wrong with you, the next minute you’d be sitting there crying your eyes out like a child, you don’t even know what you’re crying for. And then I started locking myself up in the house, going around opening all the windows, locking them all up again and I ended up living in one room like being in prison.”