Gerry Conlon’s family have paid tribute to the Guildford Four miscarriage of justice victim who ‘helped us to survive what we were not meant to survive.’
The 60-year-old, jailed by the British for an IRA atrocity he did not commit, died on Saturday in his native Belfast after a long illness.
Pardoned after a lengthy campaign, the man who inspired the movie In The Name Of The Father fought for justice for others until his death.
Five people died in the Guildford bombs in 1974. Paul Hill, Paddy Armstrong, Carole Richardson and Conlon were wrongfully convicted of the bombing by a British court.
At their trial the judge told them: “If hanging were still an option you would have been executed.”
Conlon’s dad Giuseppe was one of the Maguire Seven who were also convicted in relation to the Guildford bomb.
He died in prison before they were pardoned and apology issued by the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In a statement released by solicitor Gareth Peirce who led their fight for justice, the family paid tribute to Gerry Conlon.
The family statement said: “He helped us to survive what we were not meant to survive.
“We recognise that what he achieved by fighting for justice for us had a far, far greater importance - it forced the world’s closed eyes to be opened to injustice.
“It forced unimaginable wickedness to be acknowledged. We believe it changed the course of history. We thank him for his life and we thank all his many friends for their love.
“He brought life, love, intelligence, wit and strength to our family through its darkest hours”.
Lawyer Peirce was with the Conlon family when Gerry died.
She paid her own tribute and said: “Once a community has been made suspect en masse every organ of the state will feel entitled, in fact obliged, to discover proof of their suspicions.
“The example of what happened to Gerry and his entire family should haunt us forever. Sadly these lessons are jettisoned when the next suspect community is constructed.
“Lessons should have been learned. One of the campaigns that Gerry was most strongly articulating at the time of his death was pointing out what is being done to the Muslim community today.
“He was the bravest of fighters, not just for himself and his family but, by virtue of his victory, he took on the fight for others.”
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: “Gerry and his father Giuseppe were two of the most infamous examples of miscarriages of justice by the British political and judicial system.
“To his family and friends I want to extend my sincere condolences.”
Conlon had attended many SDLP meetings in the years before his death according to the Guardian.
SDLP spokesman Alex Attwood said: “What he learned from his time in prison and campaign for release was the importance of not only raging against his own injustice but fighting for those who had also suffered miscarriages of justice.”