Gerry Conlon -- 'a working-class hero who never gave in'

Gerry Conlon (left) with Paddy Hill.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In 2011, the Maritime Union of Australia invited leaders of the Miscarriages Of Justice Organisation (MOJO) in Britain to Australia -- Gerry Conlon, Paddy Joe Hill and John McManus.

Gerry, who sadly died on June 21 aged 60,was well known for the movie about the injustice he faced and his cruel treatment at the hands of theBritish judicial system -- In The Name of The Father. He had served more than 14 years in a British jail, from 1974-1989, for a crime he did not commit.

Paddy Joe Hill served also served 17 years in the British prison system following being fitted up for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, again an innocent man the victim of British system.

I am deeply saddened at the loss of Gerry Conlon. This is about the Perth leg of their trip. When I first met Gerry, Paddy and John, I and many others were greatly impressed by the humanity of Gerry, the wit and banter of Paddy Joe and the intelligence and openness of John, who guided and managed their movements.

The first meeting with "MOJO 3" was with the Deaths in Custody group, where we explained the death in custody of Aboriginal men Mr Ward (RIP) and Mr Phillips (RIP). It was clear that they were deeply interested in the plight of the Aboriginal people. They listened and asked questions about the over-jailing of Aboriginal people in the prison system. A bond between MOJO 3 and the Aboriginal people at that meeting has lasted ever since.

We had the privilege of the MOJO 3 signing the new “Stop Deaths In Custody” banner, which is cherished.

We held a public meeting in the Irish Club, which was packed full to capacity. The MOJO 3 pumped out the message about the injustice against Aboriginal people, as well as their story about being jailed for crimes they did not commit.

At one point Gerry spoke to me in private and asked whether it possible could they get to watch the upcoming football game between Glasgow Celtic vs Rangers game.

I could not believe they supported my beloved Celtic. The Celtic supporters are extremely left-wing in our politics and most are Irish republicans and anti-fascists.

We organised for the MOJO 3 to catch the supporters bus from Joondalup in Perth's north to the city pub were the game was shown live and packed to the rafters with Scottish and Irish Celtic supporters.

The MOJO 3 addressed the crowd at half time and they again pumped out the plight of the Aboriginal injustice in Australia. The MOJO 3 made many friends here in Australia and John returned to follow up on issues during a visit to the Nyungar Tent Embassy stay at Matagarup island in Perth last year.

When Gerry returned to his home in Belfast, and in every trip he did afterwards across the world, he always spoke about the injustice he saw in Australia, against our Aboriginal brothers and sisters.

Gerry became a mentor and Patron of MOJO (Australia). He addressed our committee to give us support and his thoughts about struggle and fighting injustice, for which we will be forever grateful .

May Gerry Conlon rest in peace as a working-class hero who never gave in against the most powerful judicial system in the world that tried to fit him and others up for a crime he did not commit.

[Seamus Doherty is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Fremantle.]

Below: Gerry Conlon address a Melbourne MUA meeting in 2011.