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In the name of the sons

  • 26 June 2006

Paul Hill served fifteen years for a crime he didn’t commit. Fourteen years after being freed from jail, he finds himself fighting for justice again. Back then it was Hill versus the British justice system. Hill was one of four people—three Irish, one English—who were convicted over the IRA’s bombing of two pubs in Guildford and Woolwich, England in 1974, an attack in which seven people died. The four, who became known as the Guildford Four, were convicted solely on their confessions which they later retracted at trial, saying they were beaten out of them by police. The confessions were extracted despite the fact that ‘British intelligence services knew we had nothing to do with this because they had informers in Northern Ireland in the ’70s and ’80s giving them information on a regular basis,’ Hill says. It was considered one of Britain’s most serious miscarriages of justice. The four were finally released after dogged investigators discovered documentation at Guildford police station ‘that proved that evidence against us had been fabricated and doctored and manufactured,’ he says. ‘The judge stated that on releasing us.’

Hill has now built a new life. He lives in America, married Courtney Kennedy—daughter of assassinated US Attorney Bobby Kennedy—and has a six-year-old son. But Hill has chosen to immerse himself in what Irish campaigners consider to be another case of injustice. He has twice flown to Colombia to observe an intriguing trial that has drawn much attention.

In a sensational move two years ago, Colombian authorities arrested three Irish men alleged to be members of the IRA—Niall Connolly, Jim Monaghan and Martin McCauley—and charged them with teaching FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) Marxist rebels to build bombs, in exchange for heavy weapons. Speaking from Dublin before embarking on his recent tour of Australia, to campaign for international monitoring of the trial, Hill says he first become concerned about the case after reading newspaper reports. When Cathriona Ruane from the Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas asked him to take a watchdog role, Hill was receptive. He knows that the Guildford Four were only saved from languishing in jail for their full terms because of the persistence of ‘investigative journalists who were incredibly good, documentaries on television, and people who firmly believed in us at that stage’.

It is only the second political case Hill has been prepared to become involved in since his release. The other was the Birmingham