Magazine article Insight on the News

History No Obstacle for Hollywood

Magazine article Insight on the News

History No Obstacle for Hollywood

Article excerpt

Among the most nominated movies for an Academy Award -- after Holocaust-inspired Schindler's List -- is In the Name of the Father, a film bristling with Irish politics and the Irish Republican Army. Were the nominations for In the Name of the Father perhaps influenced by the fact that its heroes, "the Guildford Four," include Paul Hill, a nephew by marriage of Sen. Ted Kennedy and his sister Jean Kennedy Smith, our ambassador to Dublin? Hill is to I ave heard on appeal in Belfast his conviction for abduction and murder of a former British soldier -- an event entirely separate from the Guildford incident. But the point is, In the Name of the Father doesn't appeal to an Irish-American constituency so much as a moral constituency.

In our time the sacred mission of journalists, academics and the arts is to struggle against injustice. The complacent assumption -- most silly when we get to Hollywood -- is that these people are able to determine, first, precisely what's unjust and, more important, precisely what to do about it. But the thirst for justice is so strong that these people will struggle against injustice even when there might be no injustice to start. I offer you the Guildford Four.

This is no minor legal squabble, but one of the longest and most bitterly contested chapters in the annals of British justice. In 1974, the IRA, all puffed up with new Libyan support, committed a series of pub bombings in England which left 40 innocent people dead, hundreds wounded and produced a national uproar. The first of these pub bombings occurred at Guildford. The Guildford Four, including the Kennedy nephew, were convicted in relation to this incident and received long prison sentences.

But the Guildford Four later won their freedom on what many believe to be a technicality -- mainly that the notes of their interrogation were not "contemporaneous" and that their guilty verdict was consequently "unsafe." Then the three detectives who had conducted the interrogation of the Guildford Four were put on trial, and they, too, were found not guilty. So, both sides were not guilty.

One of the Guildford Four, Gerry Conlon, wrote a book; director Jim Sheridan (of My Left Foot fame) used the book as the basis for In the Name of the Father, at which point we say farewell forever to the historical record. …

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