Craigavon Two Completely Innocent
Sandy Boyer (SB) interviews Paddy Joe Hill (PJ) via telephone from England about his support for the Craigavon Two. Many thanks to TPQ transcriber for the effort put into this and two others worked on from last weekend’s show.
Radio Free Éireann
WBAI 99.5FM Pacifica Radio
New York City
11 July 2015
SB: And we’re going over to Birmingham to talk to Paddy Joe Hill. Paddy, thank you very much for being with us.
PJ: A pleasure, Sandy, thank you for inviting me.
SB: And as our audience should know, Paddy, you were framed by the British government for a pub bombing you had nothing to do with and you were in prison for sixteen years even though at the highest levels of the British government they knew you were innocent. But now you’re taking the time to crusade for the Craigavon Two who are framed. Can you tell us a little bit about their case?
PJ: The case is quite simple. It was the first Catholic policeman to be killed in Ireland a few years ago. Two men were accused of waiting on him coming out – he came out for a pizza or something and they shot him. And the main witness – there’s only one witness against them – and the main witness – Gerry Conlon, God rest his soul, Gerry got me involved in the case because he was over there and was championing the case and I went to the appeal. And the witness’ father came to the court and told the judges: You can’t believe a word that comes out of my son’s mouth. My son is a compulsive liar since from when was born and his nickname from when he was a child is “Walter Mitty”. And on the night in question when he said he’d seen them he was about fifty-sixty feet away from them. But on that particular night he wasn’t wearing his glasses. He had left his glasses at his father’s house and without his glasses he can’t see more than eight feet – he’s practically blind – all he can see is blurs – and yet the court still upheld – went against the appeal; they upheld the conviction. And of course, this is typical of the British establishment. The one thing they hate is to be proved wrong. And unfortunately for innocent people it takes ten, twelve, fifteen maybe more years before they’ll finally admit – and of course, over here in England at the present moment in the UK the way it is, you’re guilty until you can proved that you’re innocent. The presumption of innocence is gone – that’s how bad things are over here.
SB: Well Paddy, I think there’s at least some similarity to your case. In your case there was a horrendous IRA pub bombing and there was huge pressure on the police to arrest somebody ~ anybody ~ and they found you and your associates, your comrades.
PJ: Yeah, that’s correct. We were going home for a funeral in Belfast. James McDaid – I grew up with James McDaid. And Gerry Hunter and Richard McIlkenney are related. And of course we used to drink in Birmingham together when we met up socially ~like, you know? But what you call it … on the night in question two bombs exploded in the city centre of Birmingham and two bars and the result was twenty-one people were killed and a hundred and eighty-two people were injured and in respect of that there ~ the police ~ the evidence against us was quite simple – they said that they had arrested us trying to flee the country. Yet in actual fact, five of us went to the police station of our own free will to be eliminated from their enquiries. And we actually were!
Because I spoke to someone after I got out of prison in about ’94 who was in the police force, he was in T-14 the Intelligence Service at home, and he turned round and told me – he said: On the night of the Birmingham pub bombings we were asked for background information on youse five and he says we told Morecambe Police and Special Branch to let you go – that we knew all about you and that you were not involved in any Republicanism or IRA activities and that was it. But of course when the police arrived – I was cleared by the Morecambe Police at six o’clock in the morning. And then when the Birmingham Police arrived that was it. They turned around and told us right from the very beginning: (quote) “We know you didn’t do the bombings. We don’t care who done the bombings. We’ve got you. That’s good enough for us.” And then he turned around and said: “We didn’t pick you. You’ve been selected.” And he pointed at the ceiling and he said: “You’ve been selected by members at the highest level of government and they gave us our orders.” And he pulled a bit of paper out of his pocket and he shoved it under my nose and he said to me: “Read that, you little Irish b–. Look what it says there. Our orders are that we are to get confession and convictions and that we are to use any means that we have to to obtain them. Now we’re covered all the way to the top. You can have it the easy way”. And the easy way for them was for us to sign false confessions. And they told us that we didn’t have to fill them out because they would fill them out themselves – which they did! And they turned round and told us that was the easy way. And then he made a circular motion with his finger round and said: “the hard way is around the f’ing walls. “And that was it. They played football with us and tortured us for next three days you know?
And unfortunately, Sandy, the thing about it was – at that it was the Bomb Squad we used to call them – and the Bomb Squad and Special Branch had an informer in the Birmingham IRA. And on the Sunday night they put our names up on the television before we’d even appeared in court and the informer seen it and he went and got in touch with his handlers and he told them: You’ve got the wrong people. And he made a detailed statement and he gave the names of the two people who made the bombs, where they were made and the names of the three people who came along and planted them. And they had that information within a week of the Birmingham pub bombings. But unfortunately by that time they had tortured and battered us so much they couldn’t go back so they just carried on.
SB: But Paddy, I the case of the Craigavon Two, who are Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, as you said a police officer was killed – a huge uproar – all over the press – they had to get somebody and they had to get them quickly.
PJ: Of course they had to. And these two guys are just two patsies. These two guys are completely innocent. I can assure you of that, Sandy. Gerry Conlon would not have gotten involved in the case if he thought for one second that they were guilty. And neither would I. But I’m a million percent confident that these two men have been fitted up by the police simply because they wanted a quick conviction. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s not about innocence or guilt – it’s all about convictions. That’s the way the British establishment is going.
SB: Well, some things never change do they, Paddy?
PJ: No, nothing has changed. In fact, the only thing that’s changed, Sandy, we’ve got an ongoing battle here in the UK: there’s a number of people that have been released over the last few years. A young Irish boy from Dublin, Victor Nealon, and they had the evidence to show that it wasn’t him – they had the DNA evidence and everything – and he served seventeen years. And he was released eighteen months ago. They threw him out of the prison gates at six o’clock at night and they gave him forty-six pound discharge grant and that was it. Nowhere to live, no social, work or nothing. Nowhere to go. And of course now him and another young fellow, Sam Holland, who served nearly nine years – Barry George who was convicted of the Jill Dando, the TV presenter, who served nearly nine years – and we went to the Supreme Court a few months ago and they turned round and said: Even though they’ve been found not guilty they’re not innocent enough to receive compensation.
SB: I want to come back to your and my late friend, Gerry Conlon of The Guildford Four who, like you was framed. And like the Craigavon Two, was framed. But Gerry I know did a very careful investigation in this case.
PJ: He did indeed, yes.
SB: He first said … in the very beginning he said: Look, what I know for sure is that they didn’t get a fair trial. He began with that, right? And then he investigated further and then he said not only did they not get a fair trial – they’re innocent. But Gerry didn’t leap to that conclusion. He came to it very carefully. He examined it.
PJ: Exactly! Gerry examined the evidence as he always does and he spoke to me about it on the phone and he sent me some of the paperwork and I came to the same conclusion. These guys did not get a fair trial. In fact, they broke so many rules and regulations that is supposed to be laid down but of course that is typical of the police – they just do what they want. As I said, the only thing they’re interested in is getting the conviction. And they don’t care whether you’re innocent or guilty. As long as they get someone for the crime they’re happy. And unfortunately for innocent people it takes years and years and years before they will – you’ve got to embarrass them to get them to finally admit that they’re wrong and that is a very, very hard thing to do over here in this climate over here.
SB: And as you know better than anyone else you cannot rely on the courts for justice.
PJ: Oh, definitely not. Definitely not. Courts are the last place! The last thing that the courts want to admit is that the lower court judges got it wrong. They always look after their own and they will not go against them. Even if some people come in and said they done it – they still wouldn’t believe them – because they’ve already got a conviction.
SB: That is what happened to Gerry Conlon.
PJ: Exactly! Look at Gerry’s case. Joe O’Connell and the three men with him, who were more commonly know as the Balcome Street unit, when they were arrested, the first thing – they took them to four different police stations and they held them in four different police stations and they questioned them separately. And when they were asked: What was the first operations that you carried out in the UK they turned round and told them: You’ve got four innocent people in prison for the Guildford and Moody’s pub bombings. We done that. In fact, Joe O’Connell told them it was him who actually threw the bomb through the window of the pub, The Horse and Groom. And yet they got an appeal on that on those grounds. When they went to the court of appeal the court of appeal judges turned around and stated in their summing up: Yes. We admit that you did not do the Guildford and Moody’s pub bombings. We admit that in all likelihood you’ve probably never, ever been in Guildford in your lives. But, we believe that you might have known these men and knew what they were up to and you didn’t pass on the information. So they sent them back to prison for another thirteen years!
SB: But now history seems to be repeating itself with the Craigavon Two.
PJ: Exactly! Exactly! It’s repeating itself all the time. You know, they say they haven’t learned much. Believe me, they have, Sandy. They’ve learned how to cover up better. They have learned how to just fit people up left, right and centre. And it’s commonplace. Here in the UK we have about two thousand people in prison at the moment that are screaming they are innocent and nothing is done about it.
SB: And what you told me and what Gerry told me was the only hope is if people speak out. Because if you just rely on the courts, if you leave everything alone – nothing will ever happen.
PJ: Nothing would ever happen. Definitely not. You know over the last couple of years I’ve been working with the relatives of the people who were killed in the Birmingham pub bombings. I’ve been working with them to get at the truth. And of course, as I keep telling people, we’ll never get justice, Sandy, never! They could never give us justice. But I’ll tell you what: at the very, very least the thing that we should have is the truth. And that is what they’re hiding because in so many of these cases it’s people higher up who made the decisions and that’s what it’s all about – protecting the people in very high places – it’s all about protecting reputations.
SB: Well you know, the Bible says the truth shall set you free but the truth is very hard to come by.
PJ: It is over here – you better believe it! Very, very hard! No matter how many witnesses and what have you, you have, they just don’t want to believe them. All they want is a conviction at the end of the prosecution. And they’re very, very successful at getting that. Very successful.
SB: Well, Paddy, thank you very much. It’s always a privilege to talk to you and I want to congratulate you for the work you do not only for the Craigavon Two but for some of the other people who have been unjustly convicted.
PJ: Thank you very much, Sandy, and I’ll continue to do it until the day I die.
SB: We know that.
PJ: I know what it’s like to be landed in a prison cell and hoping and praying that someone will pick up the banner and start shouting and screaming for you. And for so many people in the prison system who are innocent they haven’t got a voice on the outside – they’re more or less buried alive. But while we’re alive and my organisation is alive we will continue to champion their cause and to raise our voices for them. And hopefully we’ll get a lot more but we do definitely need a helluva lot done in the judicial system in this country. It is rotten. Like I said outside the Old Bailey on the fourteenth of March, 1991 when I got released: Justice? They haven’t got the intelligence nor the honesty in them to spell the word justice never mind dispense it. They’re rotten! And believe me, they are!
SB: Well, Paddy, thank you very much.
PJ: Thank you, Sandy, and thank you to all your listeners for taking the time to listen to me.