JENGbA’s visit to Belfast

“This was Belfast and very different to any place I had ever visited before” – Jan Cunliffe
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I have never been to Belfast before, so it was a great honour to be invited over to speak at the Craigavon 2 annual Conference at the beginning of August. I had spoken at length on many occasion
with the Belfast Campaigners and they’ve kept JENGbA up to date. On arrival both myself and Gloria were met by the wonderful Joanne and Alec, who kindly took us for an enormous full Irish breakfast and then to the lovely B&B that generously hosted us for two nights free of charge.
I will be honest and say as we drove through the outskirts of Belfast it was nothing like I expected. With its terraced streets and the hills in the background I felt I could have been in Rochdale and at other times parts of Wigan. In fact Belfast resembled many towns in the North West of England. For the first few hours I struggled with the dialect of those who drove us around the city showing us places I had only ever heard about on the news in years gone by, but that meant I had to listen carefully. By the time I reached the venue for the conference my head was full of tales of internment, injustice and politics; most of which I could hardly get my head around. On walking inside I was greeted by a foyer full of worn-in shoes. Each with a name and photograph attached. I rushed over thinking in some stupid way this was some sort of art installation. My heart crumbled when I realised I was looking at the shoes of dead men, women and children …. at that point all the stories of the day hit me like a ton of bricks.
This wasn’t a town like one that reminds me of the North West, it was Belfast and very different to any place I had ever visited before.
With this in mind I became nervous about what I could tell the friends, families and supporters of the Craigavon2. What could I say about injustice that they did not already know? When everything I had discovered in a single day had driven me to tears. I did the only thing I could, I told them about my son Jordan Cunliffe. I was surprised to see the look of shock and horror on the faces in the crowd, people who had witnessed a trial without a jury followed by an appeal that led to John Paul being given extra years on his life sentence. I went on to explain how me and Gloria met, to the beginnings of JENGbA, where we are today and how Brendon and John Paul were just like the hundreds of others we support, who have been wrongly convicted because of Joint Enterprise.
Some of the audience until that moment had not been aware that joint enterprise was what their two boys had been convicted of, let alone perhaps something they could be focusing on. I can only hope me and Gloria gave them a fresh fight in a new direction and that we inspired them to learn about the JENGbA campaign. I do not know if I was right or wrong to do so, but I told them not to fight their injustice as if it was political, but to fight it purely as a miscarriage of justice, because that is what it is. I hope the fight for the truth with the Craigavon2 is not one they do standing alone but one with all of us by their side.
I learned a couple things from my two days in Belfast that filled me with cheer, one of which was why the Craigavon2 do not have prison numbers. It is because they are not a number, they have names just like all the rest of us and refuse to be called by anything else. The other was its an amazing city full of hospitality, history, wisdom and passion and all of which is etched in the faces and voices of those who live there.
Jan

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