‘The story of what British so-called justice has done to an entire family’

The shameful story of the Maguire family doesn’t need the hard sell the BBC gives it

56-year-old artist Patrick Maguire: Prison killed the child he once was

If you merely presented the facts behind the interrogation, intimidation and wrongful conviction of the family members and their friend, known together as the Maguire Seven, and set it all out in entirely dispassionate terms, it would still make the world shake with rage.

Stephen Nolan’s new documentary on the subject, A Great British Injustice: The Maguire Story (BBC One, Sunday, 9pm), doesn’t leave anything to chance, though.

“This is the story of what British justice has done to an entire family,” he begins. “And at the heart of this story is what it has done to a 13-year-old-child who, to this very day, is destroyed as a result of it.”

So shameful is this period in British history – when the bogus confessions of Gerard Conlon and Paul Hill, themselves drawn under brutal police duress, implicated and punished an innocent family – that even the stoicism of the BBC will bow to let Nolan describe Patrick Maguire, now a 56-year-old artist wrestling with his childhood torment, as “destroyed”.

Like Nolan’s recent documentary, The Shankill Bomb, which revisited an IRA atrocity and lingered, gratuitously, on its carnage, it can be hard to know what to make of giving such emotive material so hard a sell.

Does our distance from the event require new insistence to move us again? Or does In the Name of the Father’s film treatment, with its own fictitious revisions, demand to be countered with genuine and distraught testimony?

Either way, the facts remain harrowing. Annie Maguire, a religiously devout mother of four, was arrested in 1974 together with her husband, two young sons (a third son was released without charge), her brother, her brother-in-law Guiseppe Conlon, and a friend who just happened to be visiting.

All were eventually sentenced, for up to 14 years in prison, and the judge publicly rued the fact that capital punishment was no longer available. All were demonised. All were innocent.

The documentary is strongest in showing the surreal way in which the public could accept such a blatant lie, featuring a contemporary news report, sensationalist in its own way, that describes the sinister “Aunty Annie”: “a vital cog in the terrorist machine” who supposedly kept bomb-making equipment in her kitchen, “the way you might keep tins of corned beef”.

Forget the Reds under the Bed. In times of fear and paranoia, the Paddies in the Pantry could be an equally fevered and imagined menace.

But it had real and awful consequences. Beaten, intimidated and threatened with a gun by Surrey Police interrogators, its hammer clicking behind her skull, Anne recalls, “I could hear myself saying, ‘Jesus forgive them’.”

Her youngest son Patrick, just 13 at the time of his arrest, and similarly tortured, ultimately sentenced to four years in prison, was worse affected. Today Anne recalls worrying about the height of his apartment some years later, “because of the way his mind was working”.

Patrick, a conspicuously vulnerable figure for whom each recollection is raw and traumatising, is made the focus of the documentary, his jaw quivering and frequently dissolving into tears on the camera as he describes being put under suicide watch, or being beaten as a pariah in the streets.

With an interviewer of clear sensitivity, ethics and tact, you might feel that the programme had done everything to safeguard Patrick’s dignity. (His sister, Anne-Marie, whose childhood was also ruined, is just as wounded, and as frank, but seems in firmer command of how she shares her story.)

When Nolan asks Patrick’s brother Vincent, who never confessed to any wrongdoing, “You never broke?”, the way a gangster might be congratulated for keeping silent, Vincent immediately corrects him: “I had nothing to break for”.

That director Eamonn Devlin includes a post-interview hug between Nolan and Patrick, still brittle from his recollections, may not strike everyone as a very reassuring gesture either.

What prison killed, Patrick says, is the child he once was. But to call him “destroyed” seems both crass and exploitative, particularly when his new exhibition of artworks is called Out From the Darkness.

Patrick credits his survival to his mother, a woman so resilient that we hear her still praying for her tormentors. “I’ve just been lucky to have…” Patrick says, voice halting. “Lucky to have what?” says Nolan. “Her as my mum.”

With many thanks to: Peter Crawley and The Irish Times for the original story.

Follow this link to find out more: http://’The story of what British so-called justice has done to an entire family’

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Guildford Four’s Armstrong lays bare experience of prison and it’s aftermath.

ONE of the Guildford Four has described his struggles following his release from prison – and how he has come out the other side. Wrongly convicted and imprisoned for 15 years, Paddy Armstrong was one of four people (known as the Guildford Four), jailed for the Guildford pub bombings in England in 1975.

Almost 30 years after his release, the Belfast-born man has relieved his ordeal in a book, Life After Life, saying “we can’t let people forget, because there are still injustices in the world today”. Mr Armstrong said the book, ghostwritten by Journalist Mary-Elaine Tynan, “lays bare the experiences of those years and their aftermath”. “It took a year and a half to get this out of me, but I’m glad I’ve done It,” he told The Irish News. “My son and daughter had begun asking questions about what happened to me and I found it difficult to answer. “I live for my family and I want people to see I’ve come out the other side – that there is a life after life.”

Mr Armstrong was jailed for life alongside Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson in what was widely regarded as one of the UK’s worst miscarriages of justice.

I needed to do it for my children and their generation – people who don’t know our story. Because their are still injustices in the world today. – Paddy Armstrong.

Their convictions for murdering five people in two IRA pub bombings in 1974 were finally quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1989. Recalling a dark period of his life, Mr Armstrong said: “I didn’t have a clue what was going on when I was arrested.

“They asked me the same questions over and over again. One of the police said: “We know you didn’t do it but we’re going to do you for it”. When we were told we would serve 35 years. I thought I’d never see the outside world again. “But that time came and when I got out I lived with my solicitor Alistair Logan for nine months – he saved me as I didn’t know anything about the outside. I remember the first night I stayed in his house I ended up putting the mattress onto the floor as I wasn’t used to sleeping on a bed.

“That following morning, Alistair said to me: ‘I heard you moving about a lot in your room’ and I said I still had in my head the warders were coming into my cell. “He got two doctors to treat me – ones that help soldiers who came from war, and I think that helped get my head together. They helped me adjust to life outside again. “It was very hard and there were times I wanted to be back in prison because at least I knew the structure there.”

“Asked if his ordeal had made him bitter, Mr Armstrong said: “I’ve no bitterness at all, I’m not that type of guy. “I’m angry with the police. I always get asked ‘you must hate so many people’ but what’s the point?” On why he was publishing his memoirs now, he said: “I didn’t just want the book to be about my time in prison but also about my life since I got out, and how difficult it was in those early days. 

“I needed to do it for my children and the people of their generation – people who don’t know our story. Gerry Conlon and Carole Richardson are gone now, but I’m still here. And so is Paul Hill. “And we can’t let people forget because there are still injustices in the world today.” Life After Life, A Guildford Four memoir will be launched at Easons in Belfast’s Donegal Place at 6.30pm on Thursday night April 13th 2017.
#JFTC2 #JusticeForTheCraigavonTwo


With many thanks to: Suzanne McGonagle, The Irish News.