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Friday 20 September 2019

State Papers 1988: Haughey pleads for 'generous gesture' over cases involving 'Birmingham Six' and 'Guildford Four'


Gerry Conlon asked for help
Gerry Conlon asked for help

Ralph Riegel

Taoiseach Charles Haughey privately pleaded with Britain for "some generous gesture" such as clemency over the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and other cases.

Mr Haughey raised the issue with prime minister Margaret Thatcher at a private meeting in Brussels in February 1988 after he had received a personal plea for help from Guildford Four member Gerry Conlon.

Mr Conlon, in a letter to Mr Haughey, begged for Irish Government help.

"We spent nearly 14 years in English prisons for something I not only did not do but did not even know anything about," he wrote.

"Mr Haughey, my father died in an English prison after years of neglect and ill treatment, he died an innocent man. I ask you to speak out on our behalf and on behalf of the Maguire family and the Birmingham Six.

"I ask you and your Government to take our case to the European Court of Human Rights."

Mr Haughey personally raised the issue with Ms Thatcher.

"I know your feelings on these subjects but I must press you. If you were to make some generous gesture," he asked her.

"I must emphasise to you the very keen sense of injustice rampant in Ireland at present. Is there any possible movement or any gesture you can make? A small move would go a long way. Could I ask you to look at the question of clemency? What I am concerned with is clemency - not pardon but clemency."

Ms Thatcher warned she could not interfere.

Irish Independent

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