Raymond McCord carries the coffin of his friend Gerry Conlon

Raymond McCord carrying the coffin of Gerry Conlon
Raymond McCord carrying the coffin of Gerry Conlon

Victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord yesterday helped carry the coffin of his “friend” the Guildford Four’s Gerry Conlon

Mr McCord said he knew Mr Conlon for several years after meeting at a political conference where they had both been asked to sit on a panel.

“I met up with him at a SDLP event in Armagh,” said Mr McCord. “We sat on a panel together and became good friends after that.

“What was very disappointing for me yesterday were the lack of unionists there, politicians and others.”

Mr McCord - whose son and namesake was murdered by the UVF in 1997 - added: “I was up at the family home several times this week and they treated me as if they had known me for years.

“Yesterday I sat at the back of the chapel during the funeral and people came up to me and shook my hand and said well done, an acknowledge ment for coming to the chapel and going to his funeral.

“Gerry wasn’t bitter towards the justice system. He didn’t go on about hatred and what he went through when he was in jail - and it ruined his life.

“But he was an innocent man.

“There was well over 1000 people there and it was good to see him recognised by the ordinary people.”

The 60-year-old died last week only three weeks after he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Paddy Hill, who was one of six men wrongly convicted of IRA bombings in Birmingham, also in 1974, was also among those who helped carry the coffin.

Mr Conlon was played by Daniel Day-Lewis in the 1993 film In The Name Of The Father.

Irish deputy prime minister Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore was among a number of dignitaries at the funeral. Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey was also there, as was SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell and the party’s Foyle MP Mark H Durkan.

Co Londonderry man Brian Shivers, whose conviction for the 2009 dissident republican murders of two British soldiers in Antrim was overturned last year, attended as well.

Mr Conlon, who is survived by his partner Alison and daughter Sarah and other family members, including his sister Anne, was taken for burial at Milltown cemetery.