Proved innocent - Gerry Conlon

Proved innocent

Author: Gerry Conlon wrote this autobiographical novel to tell the whole world about his unlucky fate. Arrested for a crime he did not commit he spent 15 years in a british prison. Born in the slums of  West Belfast in the 1954 Gerry Conlon was meant to be an IRA terror group member and arrested without confession.

After he was released he wrote down his story which was filmed later on as "In the name of the father".

Proved innocent: The story starts with Gerry's childhood. His father, Guiseppe Conlon was a completly non-violent man, a natural pacifist who didn't take part in the 2nd World War. The whole family is rather gentle without deeper political opinions, the mother a really religious catholic woman. Because of a bad job Gerry's father  gets tuberculosis. Gerry starts to steal and gamble at the age of 13, but he is no real criminal.

In these years, around 1969, there are the first demonstrations for more rights for Catholics in Northern Ireland. Gerry doesn't take part. It's the time where IRA still stands for "I Run Away". Many Catholics from all over Belfast flee to West Belfast where kind of a ghetto develops. Also Gerry's aunt's house is burned to the ground. The british army who invades West Belfast is meant to be the protector of the Catholics. But the situation soon changes. In 1971 hundreds of people are arrested for nothing, among them Gerry.

Afterwards he was looking for a job. Without success because he was a Catholic. So he does professional shop- lifting for several months. After some little job he gets tired of Belfast and leaves for London. But he olny gets as far as Southampton where he meets an old friend of his - Paul "Benny" Hill. After a while Gerry and Paul go to London. They meet mostly other irish people, among them Gerry's uncle Hughie, his aunt Annie, Paddy Armstrong and his girlfriend Caroline.

One night, Gerry gets hold of the telephone number and adress of a prostitute. When he discovers that she insn't at home he breaks in her flat and steals 700 pounds.

On the night of 5th october 1974 the IRA bombs two pubs in Guildford/ London where brithish soldiers used to be hanging around. Five men are killed.

Gerry goes back to Belfast where he is arrested some weeks later. British policemen ask him about the Guildford bombing. They beat him and try to make him confess by showing him Paul Hill's confession that had been written under severe menace. They move him to England and several police stations there always trying to make him tell them about the bombing. They don't let him sleep, give him anything to eat but he still tells the truth. When they finally threath to harm his family he gives in and signs two self- incriminating  statements. He is so weak and afraid of the beatings that he tells the policemen everything they want to hear.

Also his uncle Hughie and his aunt Annie are arrested for the bombing.

After one week of questioning he is put before a magistrate and afterwards into prison on Remand for another 7 days. Afterwards, in court they meet Gerry's aunt Annie, Paddy and Caroline again. All of them are sure that their wrong confessions won't stand up to court.

Then Gerry gets to know that his father, who has come over to England to get Gerry back, has been arrested as well with the rest of Gerry's relatives, among them his cousins aged 15 and 13.

On 16th  September Gerry's trial begins. It lasts 5 weeks and the lies that are told begin to bore Gerry. He himself has only half an hour to speak. The sentence is guilty in all charges. "The Guildford Four" - Gerry, Paul, Paddy and Caroline - get life imprisonment with recommendation for at least 30 years in Gerry's case.

Now Gerry is moved from one prison to the next, suffering from the insults of other prisonners from time to time. He also feels guilty about his father beeing arrested, who is in the prison hospital, suffering from his tuberculosis. He and the rest of the family are all found guilty, their penalties are between 4 and 12 years.

In December 1975 some IRA men are arrested for bombings that have taken place after Gerry's arrest. They  admitt that they had also bombed the pubs in Guildford but nevertheless Gerry's, Paul's, Paddy's and Caroline's appeals for releasing are not carried out.

All of them get more and more desperate. The years pass by. On the 23th december 1980 Gerry's father dies of pneumonia after a hunger strike. He makes Gerry promise him to clear of his name after his death will have cleared Gerry's.

After some more years of simple disbelief and desperation, Gerry enters the media. There's a speech on the radio and several other reports about the case.

But it took till January 1989 to refer the case back. Gerry's new solicitor finds evidence the police had withheld. Also Joe O'Connell the real bomber helps them as much as possible. And finally they are set free.

Gerry is not prepared for a life outside. He has to learn everything from the beginning. Choice is absolutly unfamilar to him now. He wants to travel and to make something out of his life.

Personal opinion: I was really shocked. I couldn't believe such things happening in europe only a few decades ago. I felt for Gerry Conlon and now think of all those people who are innocent in prison now. Although the book was sometimes difficult to read or also boring in some parts I liked it. The film is also great.

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