Balcombe St and Gerry Conlon – Joe O’Connell’s Speech from the Dock

The Balcombe Street siege  involved members of the   Provisional Irish Republican Army and the London Metropolitan Police Service

It lasted from 6 to 12 December 1975.

It started after a chase through London, as the Metropolitan Police pursued

balcombe st four


Hugh Doherty,       Joe O’Connell,          Eddie Butler and Harry Duggan

They had fired gunshots through the window of Scotts Restaurant in Mount Street.

They had thrown a bomb through the restaurant window  on 12 November 1975, killing one person and injuring 15 others.

The IRA men ran into a council flat in 22b

balcomne st

adjacent to Marylebone rail station,

They took  its two residents, John and Sheila Matthews, hostage.

Mr Matthews had his legs tied together with his wife’s tights while Mrs Matthews was dragged into the hall with a gun at her throat by Harry Duggan. He shouted at the police entering the building: ‘Fuck off, you bastards!’.

balcombe st living room

The 6-day stand-off had started


The 4 IRA men  were found guilty at their

old bailey

trial in 1977.

Charges were:  seven murders, conspiring to cause explosions, and falsely imprisoning John and Sheila Matthews during the siege.

dock speech

Here are the  parts of Joe O’Connell’s Speech from the Dock that refer to the Guildford 4

Members of the Jury:


We are all four Irish Republicans. We have recognised this court to the extent that we have instructed our lawyers to draw the attention of the court to the fact that four totally innocent people – Carole Richardson, Gerry Conlon, Paul Hill and Paddy Armstrong – are serving massive sentences for three bombings, two in Guildford and one in Woolwich, which three of us and another man now imprisoned, have admitted that we did.


judge at old bailey
The Director of Public Prosecutions was made aware of these admissions in December, 1975 and has chosen to do nothing.

We wonder if he will still do nothing when he is made aware of the new and important evidence which has come to light through the cross examination by our council of certain prosecution witnesses in this trial.

lawyersand judges

The evidence of Higgs [principle scientific officer for the Crown in the Guildford trial] and Lidstone [forensic scientist] played a vital part in the conviction of innocent people. Higgs admitted in this trial that the Woolwich bomb formed part of a correlated series with other bombings with which we are charged. Yet when he gave evidence at the earlier Guildford and Woolwich trial he deliberately concealed that the Woolwich bomb was definitely part of a series carried out between October and December, 1974 and that the people on trial were in custody at the time of some of these bombings.
Lidstone in his evidence at this trial tried to make little of the suggestion that the Guildford bombs could have been part of the ‘Phase One’ bombings with which we were accused with the excuse, and this appeared to be his only reason, that the bombings in Guildford had occurred a long time before the rest. When it was pointed out to him that there were many clear links between Caterham and Guildford and the time between Guildford and the Brooks Club bomb with which we were originally charged was 17 days and that Woolwich occurred 16 days later, and that equal time gaps occurred between many of the incidents with which we are charged, Lidstone backtracked and admitted that there was a likely connection.


This shifty manoeuvring typifies what we, as Irish Republicans, have come to understand by the words ‘British justice’.

Time and again in Irish political trials in this country innocent people have been convicted on the flimsiest evidence – often no more than extorted statements or even ‘verbals’ from the police.

Despite this often repeated claim that there is no such thing as a political prisoner in England, we would like to point out that the stress laid in Irish trials on the political beliefs of the prisoners and the fact that over the last few years convicted Republicans have been subjected to extreme brutality in English prisons.

Even though the Balcombe St 4  claimed to the police that they were responsible for the Guildford and Woolwich  bombings, they were never charged with these offences

The Guildford Four and Maguire Seven remained in prison for fifteen more years, until it was determined that their convictions were unsafe.

Paul Hill, one of the Guildford Four said  “although IRA members arrested at the Balcombe Street siege in London admitted their part on the Guilford attack, this was not acted on by the British authorities”.

Mr Hill also said “the intelligence service were well aware that the people in the Birmingham case and the people in the Guildford case were totally and absolutely innocent.”

We’ll never get to the bottom of why they actually put people away. Scapegoats had to be found and they were found.”

The Balcombe St 4  were jailed for life in February 1977 but were freed in April 1999 under the Good Friday Agreement.

 Comment: Here’s a prime example of the difference between the British and the Irish .

The British – we’ve already convicted people of the Guildford bombing -we’ve had people killed, property damaged and secured convictions.  It ‘s up to the convicted to appeal and prove their innocence.Why should we believe this gang anyway?

Irish Republicans – we’ve confessed to the Guildford bombing – it’s up to the Brits to charge us and set those others free

For the series “never the twain shall meet”

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