Family succeeds in securing posthumous medal for IRA Volunteer who died on the same day as Terence MacSwiney

The unveiling of the memorial plaque in Pouaduff at the former home of IRA volunteer Joe Murphy

A long-running campaign to get a posthumous medal for an IRA Volunteer has finally come to a successful conclusion.

IRA Volunteer Joe Murphy Co. Cork, died on hunger strike October 25th, 1920

Joe Murphy, whose story is little known outside of Cork, died on hunger strike in Cork Gaol on the same day, October 25, 1920, as Terence MacSwiney, then Lord Mayor of Cork, who also died from hunger strike, but in Brixton Prison.

The scene outside Cork County Jail during the Republican hunger strike in October 1920

His father, Timothy Murphy, requested a pension as recognition for Joe’s Volunteer service as early as May 1, 1923, but was denied this from the Department of Defence.

However, at some later point, Timothy was granted a gratuity payment of £75.

The requests for recognition of his Volunteer service continued from his wife, Nora Murphy, after the death of her husband. Further family requests were made up to 1954, but again proved unfruitful.

In recent times the family persisted again and eventually the Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe, announced that the family would receive a 1917-1921 Service Medal in recognition of Murphy’s service to the State.

It was presented tonight to members of the extended Murphy family at a reception in City Hall hosted by Lord Mayor Cllr Mick Finn.

Murphy was born in Massachusetts to Irish parents who subsequently returned to their native Cork when he was a young child. He joined the Volunteers in 1917 and became a member of H Company, 2nd Battalion, Cork No.1 Brigade.

He was involved in several attacks on British military posts and a well-publicised attack on Farran RIC barracks. He was arrested by British forces on July 15, 1920, and was imprisoned.

Murphy was among a group of 60 prisoners who went on hunger strike when their political status was taken away from them and regular newspaper articles would cover the condition of the men.

On October 8, Joe Murphy and the others on hunger strike in Cork Gaol wrote a letter to MacSwiney in Brixton expressing solidarity with him and urging him to hold fast.

British prime minister Lloyd George was asked to show mercy to the prisoners. Instead, he said they were hastening their own deaths by refusing food.

A further appeal was made for Murphy to stand formal trial for the possession of a bomb, the charge on which he was imprisoned. However, it was denied by the British authorities on the basis that he wasn’t in a proper condition due to his hunger strike.

Murphy’s condition deteriorated sharply in the meantime and he couldn’t even drink water.

On October 17, Commandant Fitzgerald died and eight days later so did Murphy, in the presence of family and friends.

A plaque was erected to his memory at his family home in Pouladuff and some years later the then Cork Corporation named a road after him in Ballyphehane.

The commemorative plaque at the house of hunger striker Joe Murphy at Ballyphehane, Co.Cork

Fiona Hennessy, whose mother, Ann O’Sullivan, is a niece of Joe Murphy, said the entire family is delighted with the special reception in City Hall “and needless to say, very proud about the awarding of the medal”.

“That he’s finally being rewarded with an official service medal of honour is just and right and credit to his family for pursuing it for almost a century. It means his memory and place in history will live on even more,” Cllr Finn said.

The ceremony was attended by senior military personnel, including Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett.

With many thanks to: Breaking News Co Cork and Sean O’Riordan for the original story

Follow these link to find out more: http://homepage.eircom.net/~corkcounty/Timeline/jmurphy.htm

Link 2: https://amp.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/joe-murphy-was-almost-overshadowed-by-death-of-lord-mayor-in-1920-911812.html

Link 3: http://www.rollofhonourirl.com/more-photos.php

Prison spying ‘exposed 30 years ago’

Seán O’Brien: ‘I was instructed to record meetings between certain IRA prisoners and their solicitors’ COLLINS PHOTO AGENCY

A former prisoner officer says he told the Department of Justice almost 30 years ago that inmates’ meetings with their lawyers were being secretly recorded in Portlaoise prison.

Seán O’Brien says he was taken aback when justice minister Charlie Flanagan expressed concern on Friday about a report from Patricia Gilheaney, the inspector of prisons, of an investigation she conducted into claims by a serving officer that conversations between prisoners and solicitors had been monitored. The report is being considered by Séamus Woulfe, the attorney-general.

“I know it happened because I was one of the officers who recorded them,” said O’Brien. “I was instructed to record meetings between certain IRA prisoners and their solicitors. I had to listen through the wall in the reception area next to where the legal meetings took place.

“One time, I remember another officer putting a glass to the wall to enhance the audio of the legal visit.

“We wrote down what we heard on ‘a half-sheet’ — an official form that was about A4 size. Then we’d hand it over to [the authorities].”

O’Brien, from Clara, Co Offaly, said he attended a meeting with a senior official in the Department of Justice on June 14, 1988, and told him about the recordings. He claims to have spoken “numerous times about it” with Flanagan, a local TD. Their last conversation, according to O’Brien, was in December 2014 when Flanagan was the minister for foreign affairs.

Flanagan’s spokeswoman said the minister has known O’Brien for more than 30 years. “He believes that any issues raised by Mr O’Brien with him were in his capacity as a constituency TD and were, the minister believes, dealt with appropriately.”

O’Brien said he also discussed the issue with Enda Kenny when he was the taoiseach, and it was referred to an independent review mechanism set up by Frances Fitzgerald, then the justice minister. O’Brien’s claims were not referred onward for further investigation.

O’Brien, 59, was dismissed on health grounds from the Irish Prison Service in 1989, 12 months after he had pursued Patrick McVeigh, an IRA prisoner, and stopped him escaping.

Kevin Winters, O’Brien’s solicitor, said: “We are instructed to consider legal proceedings on his behalf in relation to his treatment in response to what he was saying, in particular about the issue of surveillance. We will be writing to the minister this week and the specific nature of the legal action will be dictated by the response.”

With many thanks to: The Irish Times and Justine McCarthy for the original story

 

 

Former Marine Ciaran Maxwell has turned ‘assisting offender (informer)’ to accuse Niall Lehd of involvement in ‘dissident’ republican plot

A FORMER Royal Marine jailed for stockpiling weapons and bomb materials has turned “assisting offender”(tout) to accuse an old so-called school acquaintance of involvement in the dissident republican plot, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors revealed Ciaran Maxwell has made statements alleging Niall Lehd helped source and construct explosives recovered from up to nine different hides in areas around their hometown of Larne, Co Antrim.

Maxwell (32) is currently serving an 18-year prison term after admitting a series of terror-related offences.

His evidence is now being relied on as part of the case against 29-year-old Lehd.

Niall Lehd

Details emerged as Lehd was granted bail on charges of preparing terrorist acts, possessing explosives with intent to endanger life, and possessing documents useful to terrorism.

The alleged offences relate to the discovery of arms dumps in 2016.

Hides constructed out of plastic barrels and buried in the ground contained mines, explosive projectiles, pimp bombs, handguns and ammunition, improvised detonators, timer power units, command wires and command wires.

Police uniforms were also located in the secret storage, the court heard.

A Crown lawyer disclosed Maxwell has provided two statements under the terms of Serious Organised Crime and Police Act in which he claims Lehd aided in amassing the arsenal of weapons.

Maxwell alleges the pair went to the same school, lived in the same estate and met up when he returned on leave from the Royal Marines, the court heard.

According to his account they also constructed component parts ordered from eBay and Amazon.

A judge was told Lehd is allegedly linked to three separate pipe bombing incidents in Carnlough, Co Antrim, north Belfast and Armagh.

“Essentially the prosecution rely on Ciaran Maxwell as an assisting offender in terms of his evidence that Niall Lehd was involved in this offending,” the prosecutor said.
Seamus Lannon, defending, disputed the assertion that the two men went to school together.

With no DNA connecting Lehd to the hides, the barrister suggested Maxwell had pointed the finger at just his client in an attempt to get a reduced sentence.

Vulnerable prisoner

“Is he raising the issue of Niall Lehd because Niall Lehd is a convenient patsy who is no danger to anyone?” the barrister asked.
“We say the credibility of Ciaran Maxwell is shot, and the Crown case here is fundamentally weak.”

Granting bail on strict conditions, Mr Justice McAlinden stressed police must be allowed to examine and search computers or internet-enabled devices at Lehd’s home.

He warned that any evidence of browser histories being cleared will be considered a breach of the release terms.

With many thanks to the: Irish Republican Prisoner News for the original posting.

From Irish News

UVF ‘had secret talks with IRA which discussed federal Ireland’

Today sees the release of hundreds of previously secret government files in Belfast and Dublin. From confidential discussions about paramilitary killings and the 1994 ceasefires, to cross-border and transatlantic diplomatic rows, they shed light on key events during the Troubles and emerging peace process. Reports by political historian Dr Éamon Phoenix and the Press Association

The UVF held held secret talks with the IRA 30 years ago which discussed the prospect of a federal Ireland, declassified state papers reveal

THE UVF was involved in secret talks with the IRA which discussed the prospect of a federal Ireland, newly-released state papers have claimed.

According to a document marked “Secret” in 1988, the meetings were facilitated by Fr John Murphy, a chaplain in the Maze prison.

The memo, written to the Taoiseach’s office and among hundreds of government files released in Dublin and Belfast today, said the priest was anxious to keep the meetings confidential and listed the three main enemies of the talks as “the NIO (Northern Ireland Office), the RUC and the DUP”.

“Fr Murphy was frankly surprised at the speed with which events had moved and was particularly surprised at the signs of apparent flexibility being shown by the UVF in this exercise where they demonstrated a willingness to at least talk about a wide range of possible future arrangements for Ireland, not excluding concepts like a federal Ireland,” wrote Brendan Mahon of the Anglo Irish Division.

Maze Prison. Picture by Brendan Murphy

He said Fr Murphy’s understanding of the concept of a federal Ireland was “based on the four provinces including a nine-county Ulster with a separate province-type arrangement for Dublin similar to the District of Columbia in the US”.

John Hume concerned by release of republican prisoners from Portlaoise after IRA ceasefire

Bill Clinton was ‘more forthcoming’ to nationalists than British wanted
Federalism is a process by which a central and regional government share power, which indicates Dublin would have a say in a Stormont government.

The papers did not specify whether the UK would have a continued role.

“John Murphy has now informed me on a highly-confidential basis that these talks have now moved outside of the confines of the prison and that the army council of the IRA and the leadership of UVF have now agreed to separate talks with the chaplains outside of the prison,” Mr Mahon wrote.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story

Óglach Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes remembered – born 16th October 1948 – Died 16th February 2008 RIP

“Welcome to my cell,” says ex-IRA prisoner, Brendan Hughes, as he opens the door of his tiny, threadbare flat on the Falls Road. “Sometimes, I’ve sat here crying for a week. I think of all my comrades’ suffering and I don’t even want to go out. You never really leave prison.”

Hughes killed and saw his friends die too. A former ‘officer commanding’ the Belfast Brigade, he’s a living legend among republicans. Small and swarthy with a mop of black hair, he was known as ‘the Dark’.

His bombs reduced the city to rubble; his gun battles with the British entered republican folklore; he spent 13 years in jail and 53 days on hunger-strike. His best friend was Gerry Adams. Hughes, 57, now lives on disability benefit in Divis Tower – the only part of the flats’ complex not bulldozed.

Over the past 35 years, around 15,000 republicans have been imprisoned on both sides of the Border. On release, those close to the Sinn Féin leadership usually fare best. A minority secure paid community jobs; the rest are employed in IRA owned or supporting bars and taxi-depots.

While some ex-prisoners start businesses independently, the IRA gives others businesses to run. But many former prisoners who – for personal or political reasons – are outside the loop, face greater difficulties.

Last week, an ex-IRA prisoner was one of three men charged in connection with the hijacking of a vodka lorry in Co Meath. Former security force members and prison officers received generous retirement and redundancy payments from the state. “We were decommissioned with nothing,” says Hughes. “IRA men and women, who gave everything to this struggle, got poverty, premature death, and mental problems in return.”

It’s the untold story of the Troubles, he claims: “People stay quiet out of loyalty to the movement.” Money never mattered to him, he says: “I was offered £50,000 to become an informer. I told them £50 million wouldn’t sway me. But it’s hard to see ex-prisoners destitute when the leadership are so wealthy and have holiday homes.”

Hughes mentions Kieran Nugent, the first IRA man on the Blanket protest in Long Kesh. “Kieran died in 2000. They called him a ‘river rat’ because he spent his last days drinking by the river in Poleglass.

“Why didn’t somebody in the movement not see he’d problems and help him? He was the bravest of the brave. The screws ordered him to wear the prison uniform and he replied, ‘You’ll have to nail it to my back.'”

Research suggests a third of prisoners suffer broken relationships. Hughes had a baby daughter and his wife was pregnant with their son when he was arrested. “My wife became involved with another man while I was in prison. The lads inside told me to give her a hard time.

“I called her to the jail and told her there was no problem – she was young and deserved a bit of happiness. She always said the war was my number one priority and she was right. I was selfish. I neglected my family. When I got out of jail, I went to her house and shook her partner’s hand.” Hughes is close to his grown-up daughter but has no relationship with his son.

He was released from prison without skills or qualifications. He began labouring. “A big west Belfast contractor paid us £20 a day. I tried to organise a strike but the other ex-POWs were so desperate, they wouldn’t agree. One of the bosses said ‘Brendan, we’ll give you £25 a day but don’t tell the others’.

“I told him to stick it up his arse, and I never went back. I wrote an article about it for ‘Republican News’ but it was heavily censored. People we’d fought for exploited us, and the movement let them.” Hughes never considered crime – “I’m not a thief” – but doesn’t blame those who do “so long as they target only big business”.

Prison left him with arthritis and weakened his immune system. He’s had pneumonia and heart problems, and suffers depression. “After jail, no-one mentioned counselling. I’d to arrange it myself. They say I’ve post-traumatic stress. The hunger-strikers’ faces are always before me.”

He speaks of dislocation after jail: “Everything was different. I went for a walk, just to be on my own. The old streets were gone and I got lost in the new streets. A man had to bring me home. Everything was noisy. I hate crowds. I only go to the pub in the afternoon when it’s quiet.”

Pictures of Che Guevara – laughing, smoking, drinking coffee – dot the living-room. “My brother is taking me to Cuba. The revolution improved ordinary people’s lives there. It was a waste of time here.”

Beneath a picture of the Sacred Heart, is a photo of two tanned, smiling young men in Long Kesh, arms around each other – Hughes and Adams. “I loved Gerry. I don’t anymore, but I keep the photos to remind me of the good times.”

Willie Gallagher from Strabane joined the Fianna at 13. Two years later he joined the IRA – “I lied about my age”. At 15, he was arrested with a gun. He spent 18 of his next 20 years in jail.

“I don’t feel I lost out because I’d no life to lose. I was the youngest in jail and my comrades spoilt me rotten. I remember digging a tunnel for an escape and thinking it a great adventure.” By now, Gallagher was with the INLA.

“At 20, he embarked on a 50-day hunger-strike after beatings by prison officers: “I lost my eyesight. It took me 18 months to recover. Then, I watched the 10 hunger-strikers die. Such brutality damaged me emotionally. I left jail at 25 and wasn’t interested in a normal life. I was full of bitterness. There was no point in killing Brits in ones and twos – I wanted to kill lots of them.

“I planted a no-warning bomb in a pub the security forces frequented. Then I went home, got washed and headed into town. Twenty people could have been killed and it wouldn’t have fizzed on me.” No-one died but 30 people were injured.

Gallagher went back to jail. His first marriage broke up when he was inside but he remarried within a year of his 1993 release. “My heart never hardened in my personal life, but my reputation means my wife’s friends think I’m aggressive. ‘Would Willie hit you?’ they ask.”

Compared to other prisoners, Gallagher, 48, is lucky. His wife owned her own home – they now have two children – and he secured a paid community job. It’s also harder for those whose don’t come from a republican family, “but my brothers were involved – two did 10 years – so I’d a lot of support.”

He runs a prisoners’ group, Teach na Failte. Funding has been suspended pending an official investigation amidst allegations of criminality which the group denies.

Gallagher has been arrested and questioned following a bank robbery in Strabane. The getaway car was bought under the name Robin Banks. “I wasn’t involved but if ex-prisoners were, good luck to them. I’ve no problem with cigarette or alcohol heists either. People who made enormous sacrifices in jail were left with nothing.

“I know one guy who was very fit and always training before he went into jail but he turned to drink and drugs on release and was found dead at 40. If former political prisoners’ records were expunged, they’d have far better employment opportunities and life wouldn’t be so hard for many.” Gallagher has no doubts about his own past: “It’s better to fight and lose than not to fight at all.”

Tommy McKearney from the Moy, Co Tyrone, served 16 years for a UDR man’s murder. One of his brothers was shot dead by the SAS, and another brother and an uncle were killed by loyalists while he was in jail.

“When I got out my father took me to see my brothers’ graves. But what struck me was the graves of the post-mistress and the baker. I couldn’t believe all the changes in our small community. The world had moved on without me. Many prisoners feel lost for so long.”

McKearney now runs Expac, a Monaghan-based group for ex-prisoners in Border areas. “There’s no ideal time to go to jail, but it’s probably best in your mid-20s. Jail stunts teenagers’ emotional development and prison is very hard in your 40s or 50s because you realise how little time is left.

“Serving more than four years affects people. They start to lose contact with the outside world and all but close relatives. After 10, they’re institutionalised. It’s like marathon runners ‘hitting the wall’. After a certain distance, the battle gets too much physically and psychologically.”

Ex-prisoners often feel their relatives are strangers and they left their real ‘family’ in jail. Those who were single when they went to jail, then “play catch-up” with children and mortgages in their 40s and 50s, McKearney says. “At retirement time, when life should be easing, they’re up to their necks in mortgages and debt.”

The situation has improved since the ceasefire, but ex-prisoners still face employment discrimination, he says. They’re officially barred from civil-service jobs and unofficially from many others. “How many become teachers or journalists?” McKearney asks. “I mightn’t reasonably expect to be able to join the gardai but I think I should be eligible for a job as local librarian.”

Even if ex-prisoners slip through the door, “it’s just like with women – there’s a glass ceiling”. Neither the Equality Authority nor the North’s Equality Commission recognise ex-prisoners as a vulnerable group, he says. “An employer can bin an ex-prisoner’s application form, admit it, and the law provides no protection.”

Low-paid jobs are no better: “A supermarket can draw up a list of 20 candidates for shelf-stackers and cashiers. Its head of security, an ex-Special Branch man, says ‘get rid of numbers one and seven’.”

The Special Branch also visit employers, demanding ex-prisoners are sacked, he says. “I was labouring and they ordered my boss to get rid of me. He told them to get lost, but 99% of employers wouldn’t be so principled.”

Still, it’s easier in Border areas than in parts of country where there’s hostility to republicanism and a smaller black/illegal economy. Ex-prisoners are usually barred from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, where many would like to begin new lives.

Anthony McIntyre, who served 18 years imprisonment, says: “I laugh when I hear about an ‘IRA pension plan’. The IRA offered me a Christmas loan and nothing else when I was released. I’d two kids and, I’m not ashamed to say, I had to shop-lift to feed and clothe them.”

Today, Brendan Hughes won’t attend any 1916 parade but he’ll privately pay tribute at the IRA Belfast Brigade monument. “I keep wondering ‘what it was all about?'” he says. “The doctors tell me not to drink but I do. It eases the pain, it doesn’t kill it.” A picture of the hunger-strikers hangs in Hughes’ hallway. ‘Soldiers of our past, heroes of our future’, it says. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that way.

Follow this link to find out more: https://goo.gl/images/cUYJAc

https://stairnaheireann.net/2017/02/16/2008-death-of-brendan-the-dark-hughes-aged-59/

 

With many thanks to: Antaine Mac Cathmhaoil for the original posting.

UK AMBASSADOR: “USING LIBYA’S FROZEN FUNDS IS NOT BRITISH GOVERNMENT INTENTION

The ambassador of the United Kingdom (UK) to Libya, Frank Baker has confirmed that only few MPs at the British House of Commons, mainly representing Northern Ireland, are the ones who spoke of using Libya’s frozen assets to compensate victims of the Irish Republican Army (IRA.)

This statement came as Baker met with the Head of the High Council of State (HCS) Khalid Al-Mishri in Tripoli where both officials reviewed the issue of the frozen funds among other talks, HCS media office reported.

“Those MPs are few and it is difficult for such a decision to pass at the House of Commons. The Gaddafi-backed IRA attacks’ victims were compensated before his death through the United States.” Baker said.

He added that the UK did not decide upon this matter and the rumors surrounding the UK’s stance of it are false, pointing out that such an issue could be resolved with the Presidential Council Head and Foreign Minister, away from the “media’s provocation.”

“We do reject using Libya’s frozen assets in that way and we do confirm that the case has been solved at the time of Gaddafi’s regime. The funds are for all Libyans and are frozen by a UN Security Council resolution.” Al-Mishri said.

He also reviewed the free economic zone in Sirte and was backed by Baker that such a project is very vital for both countries.

UK House of Commons was set to vote for allowing the government to use Libya’s frozen assets in Britain to compensate IRA victims.

With many thanks to: The Libya Observer and Abdulkader Assad for the origional posting.

 

‘SECRETS’ over Patrick ‘Guiseppe’ Conlon’s pub bomb prison death

Patrick “Guiseppe” Conlon already had tuberculosis when he was jailed on 4th March 1976.

The government drew up a secret plan to release a man wrongly convicted over IRA bombs in Guildford, papers seen by the BBC reveal.

Belfast man Patrick “Guiseppe” Conlon was jailed with his son and nine others after two explosions in Guildford in 1974, and died of tuberculosis in 1980.

But had he recovered, he would have been released from jail, papers show.

His family said the attempt to hide the details was “horrific”. The government declined to comment to the BBC.

Mr Conlon was one of the Maguire Seven, convicted on explosives charges, and his son Gerry was one of the Guildford Four, jailed for murder after the pub bombings killed five and injured 65.

All eventually had their convictions quashed after what became known as one of Britain’s biggest miscarriages of justice, and the story told in the film In The Name of the Father, starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite.

Mr Conlon died four years into his 12-year prison term.

it was reported by the BBC Mr Conlon’s health became so poor in December 1979 he was taken to hospital, but just over a week later was returned to jail.

He was again moved from prison to hospital as his health worsened and died on 23 January 1980, the same day Home Secretary William Whitelaw – later Lord Whitelaw – decided to grant him parole.

Guildford Four man’s ‘living hell’ revealed
Pub bombing files ‘show fresh evidence’
‘End secrecy’ over IRA pub bombings
The BBC has seen the private papers of his predecessor Merlyn Rees – later Lord Rees – including some files that remain closed to the general public.

One file contained a letter from Lord Whitelaw to Cardinal Basil Hume, who had campaigned on behalf of the 11.

Writing the day after Mr Conlon died aged 56, four years into his 12-year prison term, he said: “Although it will be of no comfort to his family I thought you should know in confidence that I had in fact already come to the conclusion that should Mr Conlon recover sufficiently to be discharged from hospital, it would not be right to return him to prison.”

Home Secretary William Whitelaw wrote to Cardinal Hume on 24th January 1980, the day after Mr Conlon died.

Further letters revealed how the decision was leaked to the press after the government tried to keep it private.

On 3rd March 1980, Mr Whitelaw acknowledged there had been a leak to the press.

Mr Conlon’s granddaughter Sarah McIlhone said her mother, Ann McKernan, was too ill to comment, but would demand the truth needed to be told.

“This is horrific. My granddad and my uncle Gerry were innocent men,” Ms McIlhone said.

“The whole family suffered awful pain and heartache because of what the British government have done. We don’t know what to say.”

‘Lasting heartache’

Gerry Conlon continued to blame himself for his father’s death after his release, Ann McKernan (right).

Patrick Conlon was arrested after his son Gerry’s false confessions, which he alleged were made as a result of police brutality.

In 2016, after the BBC accessed files on the case, Ann McKernan described how her brother was left feeling lasting guilt over what had happened to their father.

“Nobody’s seen his tears, but I’ve seen his tears,” she said.

“He blamed himself for my father’s death, and he cried to me, and I couldn’t take that heartache away.”

Christopher Stanley, from KRW Law which represents the Conlon family, said: “This sad revelation confirms again the demand for truth and justice regarding both the Guildford pub bombings and the wrongful conviction of the Guildford Four.”

He has successfully applied to the Surrey Coroner for a fresh hearing – a pre-inquest review – into the bombings.

Richard O’Rawe, a former Irish republican prisoner who grew up with Gerry Conlon in Belfast, said: “We thought we were beyond shock, we are not.

“The British government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves in the way they have treated the Conlon family.”

On 24th June 1976, the Home Office told the NI Civil Rights Association, who had raised concerns with Home Secretary Roy Jenkins that Mr Conlon’s health was “satisfactory”,
A chronology reffered to a decision on 24th April 1979 that Mr Conlon was not eligible for early release on medical grounds.

Human rights lawyer Alastair Logan, who previously represented the Conlons, believes the secrecy suggests the government was “covering themselves”, and said the important matter was what it knew about Mr Conlon’s condition.

“Their decision to retain him in prison must have been made with the knowledge that it was highly likely he would die in prison – and he did,” he said.

Mr Logan said when Mr Conlon was in Wakefield Prison, he believed his condition was chronic and would inevitably lead to his death, and by the time he reached Wormwood Scrubs it was much worse.

He said arrangements were not even made to give Mr Conlon meals when he could not make it down the stairs from the third floor of Wakefield Prison to the ground floor to eat.

Fellow prisoners saved up their meagre wages to buy him the food supplement Complan, he added.

At the trial, Mr Justice Donaldson – Later Lord Donaldson – said in court that Mr Conlon was receiving treatment in custody.

The government had said in 1976 that Mr Conlon’s health was “satisfactory” and in April 1979 said medical reports deemed him fit to remain in jail.

Inquest reports in 1980 said the Prison Service tried to treat Mr Conlon several times for a chest illness, but he died of natural causes from heart failure caused by his condition.

The family always claimed Mr Conlon was only given non-prescription cough medicine.

On 26th March 1979, Cardinal Hume told Merlyn Rees Mr Conlon would not live long enough to complete his sentence.
On 3rd April 1979, Cardinal Hume pleaded with the Home Office minister Brynmor John MP not to let Mr Conlon die in prison.

Descriptions over Mr Conlon’s condition have varied over the years to include TB, lung cancer and emphysema. Documents in the files attributed his death to TB.

Treatment given now for TB involves taking antibiotics for several months.

The NHS website states: “With treatment, TB can almost always be cured.”

The BBC has asked to see any of Mr Conlon’s medical reports from 1979 that may still exist.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the origional story.