“Giuseppe Conlon House” – a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality & Nonviolent Resistance Opens in East London
**Photos of opening of Giuseppe Conlon House – a London Catholic Worker Project offering hospitality to destitute refugees and nonviolent resistance to the war machine.
This past weekend saw the formal opening of Giuseppe Conlon House, a Catholic Worker project in East London. In keeping with the movements 70+ year tradition the house offers hospitality to destitute refugees and acts a hub for nonviolent resistance to the war machine.
Gerry Conlon, who served 16 years in prison as part of the “Guilford 4″/Maguire 7” series of frame ups of Irish people in England in the ’70’s, called from Belfast to say “My sister and I feel honoured that the London Catholic Worker are naming their new hospitality house after our father. We feel sure our parents would have supported the good work of the Catholic Worker”.
Keynote speaker at the opening was human rights/”Guilford 4″ lawyer Gareth Peirce
. The story of the treatment of Giuseppe Conlon’s corpse (who had died an innocent man five years into a twelve year sentence) , when staff at Belfast Airport refused to handle the coffin, is told on the final page of Peirce’s recent book “Dispatches from the Darkside: On Torture and the Death of Justice”:
Giuseppe’s body was flown back to England three times. A British Army officer, after Conlon’s body was flown to Belfast a fourth time, informed the undertaker. “It’s on that plane but it is not coming off. The problem is that the press have been notified and we can’t be seen to be handling it.” (The Guardian)
In the same Guardian article Gerry Conlon says of Gareth Peirce, “Within 20 minutes of meeting her in Long Lartin Prison, I felt this is the person who is going to get me out of prison. She was so convincing in her belief that the system had the ability to own up to huge errors and mistakes. She spoke in a calm, intelligent way that gave me hope for the first time. She was so believable when she said: ‘My job is to get you out and I’m going to get you out.’ ”
In the hour before the formal event, some of the 200 attending began to gather in the hall of Giuseppe Conlon House entertained by the seven piece “Bow Street Ramblers Old Time String Band” before formalities commenced in the old church/venue section of the complex. The crowd moved through a door from the hall to the venue space where sound equipment had been set up and the stage decorated with prominent photos of Giuseppe Conlon and Jimmy Mubenga (killed in custody a month ago on a crowded plane at Heathrow while being deported to Angola)
Photos set out, below those of Giuseppe and Jimmy, included those of Catholic Worker founders Peter Maurin & Dorothy Day, Vietnam War Catonsville 9 draft board raider/Plowshares movement founder Phil Berrigan, assasinated Salvadoran Bishop Romero, St. Francis and Martin Luther King.
The event was MC’d by long time Catholic Worker Ciaron O’Reilly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciaron_O%27Reilly . Formal preceedings began with Joe Black, who had crossed the water from Dublin for the occasion, singing the title track of his album “The Welcome”. “The Welcome” references the “Maguire 7”, “Guilfrod 4″and Birmingham 6” miscarriages of justice broadens into a general anti-racist theme before calling for hospitality for all. People from a variety of ethnicities then emerged from the 200 strong audience to identify themselves, the communities they originated from and say “welcome” in their first language.
Hackney based Australians “Lovers Electric” http://www.loverselectric.com/flash.html then followed. Ploughshares activist/ Oxford based poet Stephen Hancock http://www.craftech.com/~dcpledge/brandywine/plow/webpa…S.htm shared some verse
Gareth Peirce spoke eloquently to the appropriateness of a house of hospitality bearing the Conlon name, reflecting on the struggles Giuseppe’s wife Sarah endured visiting her husband in English jails through the five years before he died in custody. Gareth also made the connections between what happened to the Irish community then and what is happening to the Muslim community now in the context of President Bush’s neverending “War on Terror”
Rosario Miranda, an Angolan friend of Jimmy Mubenga, took the stage and described Jimmy’s death in GS4/ UK Border Control custody at Heathrow a month ago.
Rosario spoke of the family’s ongoing grief and thirst for justice. He called for solidarity with the Mubenga family and for those involved to be held accountable. Jimmy’s body was released the previous day from state custody. His inquest and funeral should follow in the next weeks.
The formalities concluded with the late arrival of Tottenham’s own Raz who played a couple of original numbers and recited a poem that will soon rock the youtube world.
The full formalities were filmed by a professinal Australian film maker. It is hoped we can youtube the clips of Joe Black’s song “The Welcome” & the multilingual welcome ritual that followed, another of Joe’s songs written especially for the occasion remembering Giuseppe Conlon and his inspiration to the work of “Giuseppe Conlon House” and Raz’s concluding poem. The filming and editing, like this event and Catholic Worker projects generally, are carried out on a voluntary basis with the hat passed for donations to cover costs. People bring what skills, talents and time they have to the party. Seems to be working, so far so good.
At the conclusion of formalities, folks moved back through the door from the church/venue space into the hall for another 3 hours of self catered “BYO drinx & food to share” partying, networking with music by Raz, Barbara and the “Bow Street Ramblers Old Time Swing Band”.
***WHAT IS THE CATHOLIC WORKER?
The Catholic Worker is an anarcho pacifist lay Catholic movement started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in New York City during the Great Depression in 1933. There are now over 180 Catholic Worker communities primarily in the United States but also in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chiapas, England, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand and The Netherlands http://www.catholicworker.org
The work of the Catholic Worker is to practise the “works of mercy” (feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting the imprisoned etc.) and to offer nonviolent opposition to war and war preparations. Live in Catholic Workers are volunteers, the 180+ autonomous inclusive communities refuse all state funding and rely on donations to sustain their work.
The Catholic Worker in England presently comprises of “Dorothy Day House” in Dalston/London, “St. Francis House” in Oxford, the Catholic Worker Farmhouse in Rickmansworth http://www.thecatholicworkerfarm.org/ and the new “Giuseppe Conlon House” in east London. http://www.londoncatholicworker.org
It is a tradition within the Catholic Worker movement to name our houses after people whose lives have inspired us. Many houses are named after saints, but also there are houses named after our founders Dorothy Day & Peter Maurin, Mexican labour organiser Cesar Chavez, the former slave Harriet Tubman, slain (in East Timor) Australain journalist Greg Shakelton, executed anarchist labour organiser Joe Hill etc.
***WHY THE LONDON CATHOLIC WORKER IS NAMING ITS NEW HOUSE AFTER GIUSEPPE CONLON?
The London Catholic Worker would like to honour the memory of Giuseppe Conlon by naming our new hospitality house in Harringey, London, after him.
Giuseppe Conlon came to London from Belfast in 1974 as an act of mercy. He came to visit, and organise legal representation for, his son Gerry who had been arrested, tortured and framed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guildford_Four_and_Maguire…Seven
Anne Maguire was Giuseppe’s sister-in-law and the family offered Giuseppe hospitality and a bed for his stay. On the night of his arrival, the door to the Maguire home was smashed in by the police. Anne Maguire, her husband Pat, their sons Vincent (17), Patrick (14), the boys Uncle Sean Smythe, family friend Patrick O’Neill and Giuseppe were in turn arrested tortured and framed.
Giusseppe was not to return home alive to Belfast. He was to die in prison in England in 1980. The remaining “Maguire 7” would not be together at liberty “on the outside” for another 11 years.
The “Guilford 4” convictions were reversed on appeal in 1989. The Maguire 7 convictions were quashed in 1991. Gareth Peirce .
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gareth_Peirce , lawyer in the Guilford 4 case, has also represented Catholic Worker Fr. Martin Newell in the Jubilee Ploughshares trial (2001) http://www.craftech.com/~dcpledge/brandywine/plow/webpa…0.htm and a number of other ploughshares groups http://www.craftech.com/~dcpledge/brandywine/plow/Chron….html
The themes of hospitality, imprisonment, visiting the imprisoned, miscarriages of justice and struggling to live a life of nonviolence in a world of institutionalised violence are common in the life of Giueseppe Conlon and in the experiences of both Catholic Workers and guests at Giuseppe Conlon House in London. The life and struggles of Giuseppe Conlon are an inspiration to us all.
*2010 “Dispatches from the Darkside:On Torture and the Death of Justice” by Gareth Peirce http://www.guardianbookshop.co.uk/BerteShopWeb/viewProd…76194
*2008 “My Father’s Watch: The Story of a Child Prisoner in 70s Britain” by Patrick Maguire 2008
*1994 “Why Me? One Woman’s Fight for Justice and Dignity” Anne Maguire 1994
*1993 Film: “In the Name of the Father” 1993
*1990 “Proved Innocent” by Gerry Conlon 1990
*1988 “Streets of Sorrow” by the Pogues by Terry Woods & Shane MacGowan of the Pogues (banned from broadcast) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streets_of_Sorrow/Birmingh…m_Six
“The poor tell us who we are,
The prophets tell us who we could be,
So we hide the poor,
And kill the prophets.”