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Quest for truth and justice goes on after Ann passes away

PROMISE: Sisters Bronagh McKernan, Joanne Hartley, Sarah McIlhone and Mary Kate McKernan mourn the passing of their mother Ann McKernan, sister of Gerry Conlon. PROMISE: Sisters Bronagh McKernan, Joanne Hartley, Sarah McIlhone and Mary Kate McKernan mourn the passing of their mother Ann McKernan, sister of Gerry Conlon.
Gerry Conlon leaves the Old Bailey in 1989 a free man after spending 15 years in prison, flanked by his sisters Ann, left, and Bridie Gerry Conlon leaves the Old Bailey in 1989 a free man after spending 15 years in prison, flanked by his sisters Ann, left, and Bridie
By Caoimhe Quinn

THE daughters of Ann McKernan have pledged to continue their mother’s forty-year fight for truth and justice following her passing last week.

Ann’s brother Gerry Conlon was wrongly convicted of the 1974 Guildford IRA pub bombings in England, which killed five people and injured 65. Gerry, along with two other men and one woman, known as the Guildford Four, were given life sentences which were quashed in 1989. Her father Guiseppe Conlon was arrested along with the Maguire Seven while travelling to London from Belfast to help his son. He died in prison five years later, but recently the BBC revealed private papers showing that if he had recovered he would have been released from jail.

Just weeks before she lost her battle to cancer the mother of four had continued to campaign for the release of secret British Government papers relevant to the miscarriages of justice relating to the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven.

Eldest daughter Sarah McIlhone said the family is “devastated at the loss of our mother and best friend” but vowed to carry on her legacy.

“She was also a prisoner in what happened to her family,” she revealed. “She was a tireless campaigner along with her brother Gerry for truth and justice. Just a few weeks ago I had the privilege to listen to my mummy set out her wishes to get the truth of what happened to my grandfather Guiseppe and uncle Gerry should anything happen to her.

“She made all her daughters promise to carry on this fight, which we will.
“We know she was dearly loved and respected by all who knew her and we appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers. She was a mother of four and grandmother to 13. She will be dearly missed by all who knew her.”

Tributes have poured in for the West Belfast woman who fought fearlessly on behalf of her father and brother, even after Gerry’s death in 2014.

SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood expressed his sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ann.

“Ann was a champion against social injustice and she stood firmly by Gerry through both his time in prison and when he sought a public apology,” he recalled. “Ann was a rock for her family when both her brother and father were in prison.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Ann’s family at this difficult time.”

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