Bruno Vincent  /  Getty Images
Gerry Conlon, left, speaks to reporters Wednesday as he arrives at the Houses of Parliament before British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued an apology for the wrongful jailing of 11 people, including Conlon, in connection with 1974 bombings blamed on the Irish Republican Army.
updated 2/9/2005 9:47:44 AM ET 2005-02-09T14:47:44

British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a public apology Wednesday to members of two families whose wrongful imprisonment for IRA bombings three decades ago was dramatized in the film “In the Name of the Father.”

Members of the Conlon and Maguire families were jailed in connection with Irish Republican Army bombings in Guildford and Woolwich in England in 1974. One attack killed five people and injured 54 others.

“I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal and injustice,” Blair said in a statement. “That is why I am making this apology today. They deserve to be completely and publicly exonerated.”

IMAGE: Britain's Prime Minister Blair
Kieran Doherty  /  Reuters
Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair leaves his residence on London's Downing Street prior to delivering his apology before Parliament.
Guiseppe Conlon and his son, Gerry, were imprisoned for the bombings. Guiseppe Conlon died in prison in 1980, while Gerry Conlon was released after serving 15 years.

The 1993 film “In the Name of the Father” earned seven Oscar nominations. Pete Postlethwaite portrayed Guiseppe Conlon and Daniel-Day Lewis portrayed Gerry.

Blair set a precedent for such apologies soon after taking office in 1997, when he offered a statement of regret for British policy during the 1845-1852 potato famine, during which 1 million people died in Ireland and another 2 million fled to Britain or North America.

Blair’s gesture Wednesday came during the latest deadlock in Northern Ireland’s long-running peace process and with pressure mounting on Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party, over the outlawed group’s alleged $50 million robbery of a Belfast bank — the biggest cash theft in history.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has said he believes the IRA committed the Dec. 20 raid on Northern Bank and that senior figures in Sinn Fein authorized it. The IRA has denied involvement, and police have made no arrests and recovered none of the cash.

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