Cardinal Awards Annie Maguire Papal Medal
posted on 23 May 2005
“for her service, her faith, her love, and forgiveness”
Annie Maguire, the Irish woman who was wrongfully imprisoned in Britain for terrorism offences, yesterday received a papal honour from the Archbishop of Westminster.
The award to Mrs Maguire was made by Pope John Paul II three days before he died.
Maguire, now a great-grandmother, spent nine years in prison after being wrongly convicted of running an IRA bomb factory from her home. The aunt of Gerry Conlon, one of the Guildford Four, she was imprisoned in 1976 along with five members of her family. They were known as the “Maguire Seven”.
The former Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, campaigned for years for their release, as documented in Anthony Howard’s new biography, Basil: the Monk Cardinal.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor presented Mrs Maguire with the Bene Merenti Medal at the conclusion of a packed 11 am Mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus parish, Quex Road, London, which she attends during the week.
About 1,500 people crowded into the church, along with TV crews and photographers. Annie Maguire sat at the front, surrounded by members of her family.
At the end of Mass, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor presented the medal.
I am delighted to be here for this Mass and especially to give this medal to Annie Maguire. It was one of the last acts made by John Paul II before he died, and that is not insignificant. All I want to say is that Annie has been given this medal for her outstanding work in the parishes here of the Kilburn community, of faith, and prayer and service to so many people. And I am delighted that she is the recipient of this medal. It is called Bene Merenti, which means “well deserved”. But I would have said, “very, very well deserved”.
I know that Annie has suffered much in the past, as have many members of her family who are here today. And I just want to say to the family how delighted we are that you are here with Annie, how many prayers have been said for you over the years.
But today I want to honour, in the name of Pope John Paul, and Pope Benedict, Annie Maguire, for her service, her faith, her love, and forgiveness, and all the qualities that her lived Christian faith has brought to this parish, and to this community.”
After receiving the medal, a tearful Annie Maguire praised her sons and daughter and other members of her family.
“They’ve all stood by me,” she said. “Without them to help me to be strong, I may not have come through.”
She thanked her parents for passing on to her their Christian faith. “Where there is faith, there is hope” she said.
In February this year, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, issued a public apology to the Maguire Seven and the Guildford Four for the miscarriages of justice they had suffered (see Notes below).
Annie Maguire’s parish priest, Fr Francis Ryan OMI, earlier commented:
“In her younger days Annie was very involved in her parish in West Kilburn before she and her family were thrust into the national headlines for tragic events which happened in Guildford in 1974.
Injustice and discrimination often lead to anger and revenge. The Maguires had more reason than most to be angry. But Annie was bigger than the injustice she suffered, and through time and prayer she came right in the end. Throughout the ordeal she never lost her dignity or became bitter, and has continued since then to inspire those around her.
Annie continues to work for her family, parish and community. She has carried the burdens inflicted on her with dignity, and has worked for the good of those around her. All these are acknowledged in this award.”