Former SDLP party leader John Hume referred to Jeremy Corbyn’s Birmingham Six campaign as ‘not helpful’ according to documents recently released under the 30-year rule.
Archived government documents reveal that John Hume, who was also then MP for Foyle, believed the outspoken Labour MP’s interventions contributed nothing to quashing the Irishmen’s false conviction for two pub bombings in 1974.
A letter from David Donoghue, the press and information officer from the Irish Embassy in London, to Dermot Gallagher in the Angleo Irish Division of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, reads: “On the Birmingham Six case, Hume commented that the involvement of people like Jeremy Corbyn in the B6 Campaign was not helpful.
“The Birmingham six have no chance of release, he remarked, unless like the G4, they get church leaders and other Establishment figures behind them.”
Explosions are two Birmingham pubs on Thursday 21 November 1974 left 21 dead and 220 injured. Hours later, five men are arrested in Heysham, Lancashire and a sixth is arrested in Birmingham. All were living in the area at the time of the bombs. Paddy Hill, Hugh Callaghan, John Walker, Richard McIlkenny, Gerard Hunter and Billy Power were charged with murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was over a decade after the bombings that TV’s World in Action questioned the forensic tests. A book was then published claiming three unnamed men were behind the bombings. In 1991, the six were freed by the Court of Appeal after 16 years in prison.
Another letter found in the papers described a visit to one of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill, in Albany Prison in April 1989.
Shane O’Neill, the third secretary in the Irish Embassy in London wrote to the Anglo Irish Division, that Mr Hill had been comforted by the help of Jeremy Corbyn.
Corbyn had raised a parliamentary question in the Commons about Mr Hill’s health issues, a saliva gland that needed removing.
“We spoke about Jeremy Corbyn MP’s parliamentary question,” the letter reads.
“Hill is quite optimistic about the future. He said that both Gifford and Jeremy Corbyn said that in the event of an appeal, failing there was a strong likelihood that the Home Secretary would grant a pardon within 18 months.
“He is trying to remain calm about the likely outcome of the appeal so that failure will not come as too great a disappointment.
“At the same time he is so optimistic about the number of people who have weighed in with their support.”
The Guildford Four were convicted in 1975 for murder and charges relating to two bombings in Woolwich and Guildford, which killed four off-duty British soldiers and one civilian.
They were sentenced to life imprisonment and were released on October 19, 1989 after having their convictions quashed, when those investigating the case found significant pieces of evidence in relation to Surrey Police’s handling of the Guildford Four and their statements.