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Thirteen facts about Paul Hill and the Guildford Four

IN OCTOBER 1989, four men imprisoned for alleged involvement in an IRA bombing attack walked free as their convictions were quashed.

One of the four men freed that month, Paul Hill, is now the subject of a fact-based drama written by Martin McNamara. The drama entitled Your Ever Loving will be based on prison letters written by Hill’s time in.

Here are 13 facts about Hill and the rest of the group nicknamed the ‘Guildford Four’…

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 1. Paul Hill – the first man arrested for the bombing 

Paul Hill was arrested November 29, 1974 his friend Gerry Conlon (pictured above) was arrested November 30 and their old Belfast school mate Paddy Armstrong and his English girlfriend Carole Richardson were arrested on December 3.

2. The trial’s judge handed Hill a life sentence

At their trial, Paul Hill was given what was, at the time, the longest sentence ever handed down by an English court; life with no chance of parole until great age or infirmity. The judge’s chief regret was that he couldn’t hang the three men.

Playwright Martin McNamara
Playwright Martin McNamara has written a play based on Paul Hill’s prison letters

3. An active IRA unit confessed to the bombings 

In January 1977, an active IRA service unit, nicknamed the Balcombe Street gang, issued a statement in court confessing they carried out the Guildford and Woolwich bombings and that the Four were completely innocent.

4. Hill was moved from prison to prison 

Paul Hill was ‘ghosted’ more than  50 times during his 15 years in prison. ‘Ghosted’ is when a prisoner is moved without warning to another prison, usually in the middle of the night.

5. Corbyn campaigned for the Four’s release

Jeremy Corbyn was a guest at Paul’s wedding to his American girlfriend inside Long Lartin prison. Corbyn was a tireless campaigner to free the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six. The Sun story on the morning of the wedding was labelled ‘IRA Pig To Wed’.

One of the men charged with the murder of Caroline Slater, one of the five people killed when a bomb planted by IRA terrorists exploded in the Horse and Groom public house, Guildford, arriving at court at Guildford. He is covered by a blanket. The accused, found guilty at the trial became known as 'The Guildford Four'. They were released 14 years later, when a court decided that Surrey Police had colluded to mislead the original trial. (Photo by Frank Barratt/Keystone/Getty Images)
One of the men charged with the murder of Caroline Slater, one of the five people killed when a bomb planted by IRA terrorists exploded in the Horse and Groom public house, Guildford, arriving at court at Guildford. (Photo by Frank Barratt/Keystone/Getty Images)

6.  Hill did his time in solitary 

Paul spent a total of five years of his 15 years inside in solitary confinement.

7. A long sentence 

The Four served a combined prison sentence of 60 years.

8. The Pogues penned song about the Four

The Pogues song, Street Of Sorrow/Birmingham Six, about both the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, was banned under the same legislation used in the late 1980s to stop the broadcast of direct interviews with members of Sinn Fein.

9. Soviet support for the Four left Thatcher enraged 

In the late 1980s it was reported that Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev brought up the campaign to free the Guildford Four in a private meeting with PM Margaret Thatcher. Maggie was not pleased.

10. After 15 years the Four were finally released

The Four’s convictions were eventually quashed as unsafe and they were released in October 1989.

The shattered remains of the Horse and Groom in Guildford following an explosion from an IRA bomb on the 5th October 1974. Five people were killed in the blast. (Photo by Maurice Hibberd/Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The shattered remains of the Horse and Groom in Guildford following an explosion from an IRA bomb on the 5th October 1974. Five people were killed in the blast. (Photo by Maurice Hibberd/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

11. Hill married into the Kennedy family 

Paul Hill married Courtney Kennedy, daughter of the late Bobby Kennedy and niece of the late John F Kennedy. The couple lived in America and on the west coast of Ireland and have a daughter. They divorced ten years ago.

12. An Oscar-nominated film was released four years after the men’s release 

In The Name Of The Father, the 1993 film made about this miscarriage of justice, with Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon and John Lynch as Paul Hill, was nominated for seven Oscars.

13. It took 26 years for them to receive an official apology 

The Four would have to wait another 16 years after being freed, until 2005, for an apology; when then PM Tony Blair said sorry to the Four and the Maguire Seven.

Your Ever Loving is at the N16 Theatre in Balham, South London, April 18th. Buy tickets here 

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