Irish News sees its campaign end with apology from PM

By Dominic Ponsford

Tony Blair’s public apology for the jailing of the Guildford Four
and the Maguire Seven was the culmination of a campaign by
Belfast-based daily the Irish News.

His statement to members of the Conlon and Maguire families last
week expressed regret for the jailings following IRA bomb attacks in
Guildford and Woolwich.

Blair said: “I’m sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice.”

It
made front page news across the British Isles and followed the
conviction of the Guildford Four being quashed in 1989 and the Maguire
Seven’s successful appeal in 1991.

Irish News editor Noel Doran
said his paper was the only title to speak to the Conlon family on the
25th anniversary of the death in prison of Giuseppe Conlon, one of the
Maguire Seven, last month.

He said: “They asked us to organise a
petition calling for a public apology from the Prime Minister and we
were happy to become involved.”

The campaign attracted almost
10,000 signatures in less than two weeks and also won the endorsement
of highprofile figures including the actor Daniel Day Lewis, who played
Giuseppe’s son, Gerry Conlon, in the film In the Name of the Father .

After
indications from Downing Street that the apology would happen, the News
provided flights to London and overnight accommodation for six members
of the extended Conlon family.

Reporter Marie Louise McCrory was
the only journalist to accompany the family into Blair’s private office
for the delivery of the apology. Photographer Niall Carson was also
given special access throughout the day.

The News covered the
story with an eight-page special the following day, including a
wraparound picture front. Doran said: “I’m delighted that Giuseppe has
been publicly vindicated after all these years, and I am very pleased
that Irish News readers were able to play their part along the way.”

After
the apology Gerry Conlon said: “Tony Blair has healed rifts, he is
helping to heal wounds. It is a day I thought would never come.”

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