A large crowd turned out at Lillie’s Bordello Thursday evening for the launch of Life After Life by Paddy Armstrong of The Guildford Four, among them Caroline Kennedy and Tom McGurk, Christy Moore, Alan Ambsby, Kim Kennedy-Smith and Paddy Hill of The Birmingham Six who was in prison with Paddy.
The book was launched by solicitor Alastair Logan OBE, but for whose tireless efforts Paddy could still be in prison today. Alastair was introduced by Tom McGurk, Mary-Elaine Tynan told the crowd how Paddy and herself wrote the book mainly ’walking and talking in Clontarf’ and Christy Moore sang ‘The Voyage’ for Paddy.
On why Paddy decided to publish his memoirs now, so many years after his release, he said on the night, ‘there comes a time in everyone’s life when you need to tell your story and this book was my way of telling mine. People have asked me why now. And there lots of reasons but I suppose the main one is because I needed to do it for my children and the people of their generation; people who don’t know our story because it happened a long, long time ago. Gerry and Carole are gone now, but I’m still here. And so is Paul. And we can’t let people forget because there are still injustices in the world today. So it’s important that stories like this get told. It’s important for somebody somewhere. That’s why I’m telling this story now.’
Paddy Armstrong was one of four people falsely convicted of The Guildford Bombing in 1975 and he spent fifteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Today, as a husband and father, life is wonderfully ordinary, but the memory of his ordeal lives on. In his memoir, for the first time and with unflinching candour, he lays bare the experiences of those years and their aftermath. The book is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of forgiveness. It reminds us of the privilege of freedom, and how the balm of love, family and everyday life can restore us and mend the scars of even the most savage injustice.
Released in 1989 he has said very little to date about the injustice he suffered alonsgide other members of The Guildford Four but now, along with ghost writer Mary-Elaine Tynan, he has finally put pen to paper and in Life After Life has made an extraordinary contribution to the miscarriage of justice memoirs from this era.
Initially bewildered by what his false conviction and imprisonment, the book details how Paddy set about building a life in prison and adapting to the grinding and uncompromising nature of life on the inside, which he documents in unflinching detail. What is more remarkable still is how Paddy adjusted to life after prison. Foisted back into a world that had changed utterly, leaving him feeling lost and sometimes longing to return to the routine and companionship prison had offered him, he lived recklessly for a while and was on the path to self-destruction. But ultimately he is saved by the love of Caroline, the remarkable woman who is now his wife and the mother of his two children, John, 17 and Sophie, 14.
Life after Life is the story of a remarkable journey from the innocent days of Paddy’s childhood in a peaceful Belfast; the city’s descent into hell as The Troubles exploded; his escape to the streets of London as an emigrant outsider who found solace in the squats and wild parties of an off-grid, hippy scene in 1970s London; the horror of his arrest and the abuse he suffered to extract a false confession from him; the despair and nervous breakdown he suffered in prison; the wild, reckless partying that followed his release and ultimately, how his life unfolded and blossomed when he met Caroline and chose to forgive those who wronged him and deal with the emotional damage he suffered through, finally attaining his dream of settling down to a simple, happy life with his own family.
Stirring and compassionate, Life After Life is a moving testament to the depths of human resilience and the power of forgiveness.
Check out some of the photos from the launch below and the full album on our Facebook page here.
Life After Life is in shops now, priced at €16.99/£14.99. The Belfast launch will take place on Thursday, 13 April at 6.30pm in Easons, Donegall Place and is open to the public. Brian Kennedy will sing at the launch and Paddy will sign copies of his book.
Paddy Armstrong is a native of Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1975 he was falsely convicted of helping carry out the Guildford and Woolwich bombings, a conviction for which he spent 15 years in prison. Today, he lives in Clontarf, Dublin, with his wife and children.
Mary-Elaine Tynan is a freelance journalist and author who lives and works in Dublin. For 18 months she wrote a weekly column about the joys and challenges of motherhood for the Sunday Independent. She now works as a freelance journalist and writer in Ireland, writing books and making TV and radio documentaries, including the award-winning Small Lives and Great Reputations about Paddy Armstrong.
Mary-Elaine worked with Paddy for almost two years to produce Life after Life: A Guildford Four Memoir.