Mourners gather at wake for Gerry Conlon in Belfast

Mourners gather at wake for Gerry Conlon in Belfast

MOURNERS yesterday paid tribute in west Belfast to Gerry Conlon who died on Saturday aged 60.

Mr Conlon was one of four people wrongly convicted for the 1974 IRA Guildford bombings which killed five people and injured 65 more.

He passed away on Saturday after being recently diagnosed with lung cancer. Last night his body was waked at his sister Anne’s home on the city’s Lower Falls Road.

His funeral will take place on Saturday after 10am Mass in St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast.

Mr Conlon is survived by family members and his partner Alison and their daughter.

Tributes from across the world poured in over the weekend for the 60-year-old whose wrongful conviction is considered one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history.

In 1989 Mr Conlon and the rest of the Guildford Four was cleared of any involvement in the bombings. His father Guiseppe was also wrongly arrested and died in prison in 1980.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the Guildford Four were victims of a “grave miscarriage of justice”.

He added, “In later years Gerry drew from his experiences to campaign on behalf of others with the group Miscarriages of Justice Organisation. His loss will be felt both within the community in west Belfast and across the world with all those who work in pursuit of justice.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said he was shocked to learn of Mr Conlon’s death.

“Gerry Conlon and his father Guiseppe were two of the most infamous examples of miscarriages of justice by the British political and judicial system,” he said.

The Fianna Fáil spokesman on foreign affairs Brendan Smith expressing his condolences said, “Gerry was the subject of a deeply unjust miscarriage of justice but his dignity and grace during his detention and upon his release resonated with families all over Ireland and around the world.”

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell added: “Gerry had a strong sense of social justice and an uncompromising desire to right the wrongs that had been suffered by others.”

In 2005, Gerry Conlon secured an unprecedented apology from then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

At the time, Mr Conlon thanked the Irish community in Britain for their support.

He said “Over many years the Guildford Four suffered grievously in a succession of British jails. We are thankful for all the support over the years from the Irish community in Britain.”

Mr Blair's apology to those wrongly jailed for the 1974 Guildford and Woolwich bombings was delivered at the time via a TV statement in his office in the House of Commons and then in private to those wronged by the British legal system.

He said: "I'm very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice. That's why I'm making this apology today. They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated."