One more body - the murder of Guiseppe Conlon

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3, March/April 1980

Up to Wednesday 23 January 1980 four Irish prisoners had been murdered in English jails – Michael Gaughan June 1974, Frank Stagg February 1976, Noel Jenkinson October 1976 and Sean O’Conaill October 1977. On 23 January 1980 Guiseppe Conlon became the fifth Irish prisoner to be murdered.

He died in Hammersmith Hospital as a result of the chronic lung disease which he had suffered from throughout his five years imprisonment. His death certificate will not record ‘Murdered by British imperialism’ but he was murdered just as surely as if he had been hung, shot, electrocuted or beaten to death. His arrest, conviction, imprisonment and treatment in jail was one long slow act of murder.

He was arrested at the end of 1975 whilst visiting his son Gerry who is serving at least 30 years also on a trumped up charge. Guiseppe Conlon was charged with possession of explosives. The sole evidence produced against him consisted of the ‘discovery’ of a 1000th part of a grain of ‘nitroglycerine’ under his fingernails. He denied the charge from that day right up to the day of his death. This ‘evidence’ however was sufficient for him to be sentenced to twelve years in prison. At no time, either during or after his trial, was his home in Cyprus Street Belfast searched! Yet this man was supposed to be part of a bombing team!

Guiseppe Conlon entered prison seriously ill and never received proper medical treatment for his illness. Throughout his imprisonment he fought to establish his innocence. He went on a five week hunger strike in 1979. He was refused parole in November 1979. Then he contracted pneumonia and was rushed, in a coma, to Hammersmith Hospital on 31 December 1979 to die. But even this was not the end of the story.

In a perverse display of imperialist brutality – Guiseppe Conlon was actually taken back to Wormwood Scrubs prison on 11 January. He was in an oxygen tent being fed on drips when he was snatched from his bed, wrapped in a single sheet, bundled into a taxi and taken back to Wormwood Scrubs. After a week of agony he was returned to Hammersmith Hospital at 10pm on 18 January. He finally died on Wednesday 23 January.

After his death, as the news of his murder began to spread, William Whitelaw had the hypocrisy to claim that Conlon was just about to be released! As O’Donovan Rossa wrote over 100 years ago:

‘The lies of our English oppressors exceed one’s wildest imagination.’

Who Killed Conlon?

The police who deliberately framed him.

Lord Donaldson who sentenced him to twelve years so that he could die in the squalid damp Victorian slum known as Wormwood Scrubs prison.

The prison authorities who watched him slowly dying.

The Home Office who refused his appeals, his application for parole and engineered the brutal transfer of a dying man from hospital to prison and back to hospital.

British imperialism which created the conspiracy to murder designed to crush the Irish people’s struggle for freedom.

Guiseppe Conlon was ‘innocent’ in all respects save one – he was Irish. His murder demonstrates beyond all possible doubt that the British ruling class will take and crush any Irish man or woman if it suits its purposes and if it is allowed to get away with it.

Our sympathy alone will do nothing to avenge the murder of Guiseppe Conlon. The only way we can respond is to fight to build an anti-imperialist movement in Britain. To fight to rid the Irish people and the British working class of British imperialism once and for all. Then and only then will the murder of Guiseppe Conlon be avenged.

Terry Marlowe


Ireland: the key to the British revolution by David Reed

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