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nightmare New play reveals how Gerry Conlon turned to drugs to cope with horror dreams about his dad

The Belfast man's lowest point was when he was foraging for food in London bins

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Richard O'Rawe (pictured holding pic of himself with Gerry Conlon) and Martin Lynch take Guildford Four man Gerry Conlon's story to the stage.
In the Name of the Son is a new play chronicling the life of Guildford Four accused Gerry Conlon, and the impact 14-years of wrongful imprisonment had upon his life

Richard O'Rawe (pictured holding pic of himself with Gerry Conlon) and Martin Lynch take Guildford Four man Gerry Conlon's story to the stage. In the Name of the Son is a new play chronicling the life of Guildford Four accused Gerry Conlon, and the impact 14-years of wrongful imprisonment had upon his life

Richard O'Rawe (pictured holding pic of himself with Gerry Conlon) and Martin Lynch take Guildford Four man Gerry Conlon's story to the stage. In the Name of the Son is a new play chronicling the life of Guildford Four accused Gerry Conlon, and the impact 14-years of wrongful imprisonment had upon his life

Gerry Conlon turned to drugs to silence his horrifying dreams about his father, a new play reveals.

The Belfast man, one of the wrongfully convicted Guildford Four, hit his lowest point when he was foraging for food in bins in London, after blowing his £1 million compensation.

And when he finally found happiness and a family back home in Belfast, it was snatched away from him when he was diagnosed with cancer at 60 and died just a few weeks later.

In new play In the Name of the Son written by Richard O'Rawe, Gerry's childhood friend, and Martin Lynch, chart the highs of his popstar friends, including Johnny Depp and Daniel Day Lewis, to the lows of a chronic crack cocaine addiction.

The show is based on Richard's book about his pal, honouring a promise he'd made on a walk through Belfast city centre, which Gerry reiterated on his death bed.

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Richard O'Rawe and Martin Lynch take Guildford Four man Gerry Conlon's story to the stage. In the Name of the Son is a new play chronicling the life of Guildford Four accused Gerry Conlon, and the impact 14-years of wrongful imprisonment had upon his life

Richard O'Rawe and Martin Lynch take Guildford Four man Gerry Conlon's story to the stage. In the Name of the Son is a new play chronicling the life of Guildford Four accused Gerry Conlon, and the impact 14-years of wrongful imprisonment had upon his life

Richard O'Rawe and Martin Lynch take Guildford Four man Gerry Conlon's story to the stage. In the Name of the Son is a new play chronicling the life of Guildford Four accused Gerry Conlon, and the impact 14-years of wrongful imprisonment had upon his life

When he was dying, the only people outside his family he asked to see were Richard, and Gareth Peirce, the human rights lawyer who had secured the Guildford Four's release from prison in 1989 after 15 years.

"This is a man who got up off his knees, got himself out of the gutter, and became a worldwide campaigner for human rights," says Richard.

"To top it all he finds out he has a ready-made family. He's on top of the world. Then out of the blue he's told he has three weeks to live.

"That's the story."

Actor Shaun Blaney plays all of over 30 roles in Gerry's post-prison story of a young man who just wanted to party before being fitted up for an horrific bombing.

"He was like the artful dodger," says Richard.

"Life wasn't big enough for him. He wasn't into anything to do with the Troubles. That was too mundane for Gerry. He liked flying from place to place and woman to woman and having a few pints and smoking a bit of weed."

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Writer Richard, a former IRA prisoner, knew immediately when Gerry was arrested with three others for the Guildford pub bombings in 1974 that he had nothing to do with them.

But the nightmare which plagued him for the rest of his life was implicating his father Giuseppe as one of the Maguire Seven, also wrongfully convicted in connection with Guildford. Giuseppe, who had gone to England to help get his son a solicitor, died in prison in 1980.

"The poor guy blamed himself for his father. He never let go of that," says Richard.

"If the cops had said Gerry was standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald, he would have said it was him.

"He used to have these nightmares that he was standing in the Old Bailey with the judge looking at him and Giuseppe is leading a chant of 'do it, do it' and a noose drops down in front of Gerry's face and he's putting his head in it.

"Or he's sitting in a chair and he has this contraption on his face and Giuseppe is tightening the screws and Gerry is screaming.

"Giuseppe seemed to be the scourge of his dreams. That's what he was dealing with. That's why he never wanted to sleep."

Gerry also gathered celebrity friends, including Johnny Depp, who went on a family holiday with him in the west of Ireland, Gabriel Byrne, who planned to produce In the Name of the Father before Jim Sheridan took the film on, and Daniel Day Lewis who was Oscar- nominated for his role as Conlon.

"He knew every major band in the UK. He was sought out. If word got out that Gerry Conlon was at a concert the band wanted him at the after party.

"At the Oscars him and his friend Joey couldn't handle it any more, so they retired to the toilet and got their pipes out and smoked their wee heads off," says Richard.

Away from the spotlight Gerry's life spiralled downwards until he was a penniless crack addict looking for food in bins in Mayfair. He decided that getting out of London was his only hope of survival and moved to Portsmouth where he became a hermit for five years.

When his mum Sarah became ill, he returned to Belfast and started campaigning for the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation. He also learned he had an 18-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.

"He and his old flame got together, and he had a ready-made family. This man had fought so hard to get a clean life and thought he would never have a family and kids, and virtually at the end of his life he falls in love again."

Richard hopes the play will travel beyond Northern Ireland and shine a light on a dark period of British history. Many of the documents compiled by Sir John May into the miscarriage of justice against the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven have never been made public.

"This story is not over," he says.

In the Name of the Son: The Gerry Conlon Story is at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast from November 2-14.

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com

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