Northern Ireland

Guildford Four man Paddy Armstrong in legacy appeal

Paddy Armstrong then and now
Image caption Paddy Armstrong, now 66, was wrongly convicted in 1975

One of the Guildford Four, Paddy Armstrong, is urging Stormont politicians to reach an agreement on how to deal with legacy issues of the Troubles.

In a rare interview Mr Armstrong, 66, said reaching accommodation on victims' issues is necessary to allow political process to keep moving forward.

"I'd say to the politicians at Stormont: 'Get your act together'.

"The important thing is that victims should be sorted out," he said.

"Until that is done you can't go forward.

"You have to look at all the victims - like us who were sent to jail in the wrong - and victims who were killed and other victims who were innocent of what happened.

"When those people are helped then you can start the process. But you can't enter a process until that's done. If you can't sort that out there is no point in having an agreement."

Sporadic contact

Mr Armstrong and three others, Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill and Carole Richardson were jailed for life in 1975 in what was widely regarded as one of the UK's worst miscarriages of justice.

They served 15 years of their life sentences before their convictions for murdering five people in two IRA pub bombings in 1974 were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1989.

Mr Armstrong, then 25, was living in squat in London which he shared with 17-year-old Carole Richardson when they were arrested in 1974 and wrongly convicted a year later.

Image copyright Mark Nixon
Image caption Mr Armstrong now lives in the Republic of Ireland with his wife and two children

After sporadic contact while they were in prison, they went their separate ways after they were released in 1989.

"We did not think we could cope for each other after what happened. We were still good friends when we split up," he said.

"I hadn't seen her for a while and then I got a letter to tell me she had died of cancer. I could not believe it."

'Angry with police'

Asked if he was angry with those responsible for framing him, Mr Armstrong said: "I'm angry with the police, but I always get asked 'you must hate the British' and I say 'Why?' The ordinary English person in the street did not send me to prison."

The four always protested their innocence.

They all made signed confessions and were charged with the Guildford bombings, but would later retract their statements, claiming they had been obtained using violence, threats to their family and intimidation.

Image copyright Paddy Amrstrong
Image caption The Armstrong family with film director and screenwriter Jim Sheridan, who co-wrote the the screenplay for the film In the name of the father

It was only after a campaign that received support from high-profile politicians and law lords that the four were finally released.

In February 2005, then Prime Minister Tony Blair formally apologised to the Guildford Four for the miscarriage of justice they suffered.

Gerry Conlon died in June 2014 aged 60. Carole Richardson died of cancer aged 55.

The "Balcombe Street Gang" IRA unit later admitted responsibility for the explosions, although no-one else was ever charged.

Mr Armstrong lives in the Republic of Ireland with his wife Caroline and their two children.

His memoirs will be published in Dublin on Thursday.