Blair apologises for bombings 'injustice'

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The Prime Minister today issued a public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families for their wrongful imprisonment for the IRA bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974.

The Prime Minister today issued a public apology to the Conlon and Maguire families for their wrongful imprisonment for the IRA bomb attacks in Guildford and Woolwich in 1974.

Tony Blair 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."

Mr Blair's apology came in a TV statement delivered in his room at the House of Commons before meeting the family members in private in his offices there after Prime Minister's Question Time.

The Prime Minister said: "The Guildford and Woolwich bombings killed seven people and injured over 100.

"Their loss, the loss suffered by their families, will never go away. But it serves no one for the wrong people to be convicted for such an awful crime.

"It is a matter of great regret when anyone suffers a miscarriage of justice. There was a miscarriage of justice in the case of Gerard Conlon and all the Guildford Four as well as Giuseppe Conlon and Annie Maguire and all of the Maguire Seven.

"And, as with the others, I recognise the trauma that the conviction caused the Conlon and Maguire families and the stigma which wrongly attaches to them to this day.

"I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and such an injustice.

"That's why I am making this apology today. They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated."

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said he hoped the apology would make up for many years of suffering for the Conlon family.

He said: "I appreciate that Tony Blair has agreed to my request for this issue to be addressed. I know that the years of lost time that the Conlon family has suffered cannot be recovered. My hope for them is that they can move on with their lives and that the cloud that has hung over them for so long can now finally be lifted."

Gerry Conlon - along with Paddy Armstrong, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson - were 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 prisoners became known as the Guildford Four.

Mr Conlon's father Giuseppe and members of Annie Maguire's family were also later arrested and jailed for the attack and other bombings in Woolwich, south east London, after they were allegedly identified as being involved in the bomb plot in confessions extracted by the police.

Giuseppe 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 Giuseppe Conlon.

The Conlon family fought a long campaign for a public apology from the Government for the miscarriage of justice.

Their 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 Giuseppe.

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