In the Name of the Son. A book review of the new Gerry Conlon biography by Richard O’Rawe…

Gerry Conlon, arguably the most well-known of the Guildford Four, published his autobiography ‘Proved Innocent’ in 1990. It made an enormous impression on me in my early twenties, so it didn’t take much to get me to Merrion Press’s launch of Richard O’Rawe’s ‘In the Name of the Son’ in Belfast at the start of October.

The forward by Johnny Depp might raise a few eyebrows, and does indicate the kind of circles Conlon moved in after his release from prison, however the key selling point for me is the author himself. O’Rawe grew up in the same street as Conlon, and remained a lifelong friend. This not only gave him access to Conlon himself, but also to Conlon’s friends and family who survived him, after his death in June 2014. ‘In the Name of the Son’ picks up where ‘Proved Innocent’ left off, though enough of the original story is covered for new readers not to become lost.

Leaving the Old Bailey, the moments Conlon is most associated within the public mind, was the end of his incarceration, but the start of a new struggle –putting his life back together again after fifteen years in prison; regaining his freedom, when his father didn’t. O’Rawe captures this journey well, with any number of poignant moments. On the night Conlon was released he couldn’t sleep and finished up out walking, remarking “I haven’t walked in the rain in fifteen years.”

It’s impossible to portray Conlon’s life as a triumph, though by the end of his life he had begun to master his demons and become much more productive in his work with the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (MOJO). His work to see the Birmingham Six freed is also well documented. The story is mostly dark, however, as O’Rawe outlines further examples of evidence tampering that would have cleared the Guildford Four to begin with, and records detail of Conlon’s descent into drug addiction.

That said, ‘In the Name of the Son’ has enormous purpose in demonstrating that, in the sense of righting a wrong, there was no justice. Freedom was won, and names were cleared, but the damage was done. The book records the damage to those who were imprisoned, as well as bringing to light the story of the families left behind. Sara Conlon, Gerry’s mother, was suddenly left at home with her two daughters as first her son was arrested, and then her husband. Giuseppe never returning home.

It is Gerry Conlon’s inability to come to terms with the imprisonment and subsequent death of his father, that was, for me, the most moving part of the book. “Found it a relief to talk about my Dad,” Conlon wrote while in therapy in 2006, “He’s been bottled up inside me for too long; it’s almost as if up to now I’ve been denying his existence. I miss him so very much.” Evidence suggests he never fully forgave himself.

It is a heart-breaking read, and must have been, at times, a heart-breaking write, though Conlon’s intelligence, quick wit, charm and ability to be the life and soul of the room also come through.

 

Dave Thompson was a primary school teacher for twenty years, but now works freelance for different organisations focussing on facilitation, training, writing resources and research. Further details can be found on his blog at overthewall.blog

  • Food First

    Thank God the death penalty has gone their have been far to many miscarriages of Justice over the years at least now their is some possibility of making amends but families suffer horrendously after the events which are usually caused by lasy policing & pressure from the public to get results very sad stories

  • Easóg

    Agree with you there. One of the best arguments against capital punishment.

  • Tochais Siorai

    The Guildford 4, Maguire 7 and Birmingham 6 would have all got the noose.

  • Food First

    Personally involved with a lady who received a 7 year fraud sentence on a trumped up bankruptcy this bankruptcy is now overturned & the sentence is now being overturned all caused by clever bent lawyers who know which levers to pull &lasy courts which do not even check the figures while this is noware near on the same scale as the cases mentioned it just shows how if you are clever & know how to manipulate the Police &Courts you are able to escape justice & pocket the gains financial from the assets of a very successful business

  • Granni Trixie

    A heart breaking story shining a light on prejudice of ordinary people looking for a scapegoat as well as the legal system. And I imagine it doesnt say much for the real IRA bombers who kept their heads down.

    Well done Richard ORawe, a man who has already demonstrated courage in writing an alternative account of the hunger strikes. That man can write.

  • Easóg

    In all three racist, anti Irish show trials, the IRA stated that the accused were not IRA members nor were they involved in actions as stated.