Smiling for the camera beside the bride and groom, these photos show Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell at the prison wedding of a Guildford Four member, a convicted IRA bomber at the time.
The Labour leader and his Shadow Chancellor were in attendance when Paul Hill married on February 12, 1988, behind bars at HMP Long Lartin, in Worcestershire.
The two high-profile politicians were there to show their continued support for Mr Hill one of four men serving nine life sentences for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, which killed five people. A year later, their convictions were overturned.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell pose alongside the wedding party at the marriage of Guildford Four member Paul Hill inside Long Lartin top security prison in Worcestershire. The guests in the picture are (l-r): Katrina Scanlon, Gerry Fitzpatrick, Marion Serravalli, John McDonnell, Tom Barron, Jeremy Corbyn, Conor Foley. Box below
Corbyn and McDonnell were in attendance at the wedding to show their support for Paul Hill, one of four men serving nine life sentences for the 1974 Guildford pub bombings, which killed five people. A year later, their convictions were overturned
Mr Hill’s bride that late Winter day was American Marion Serravalli, whom he met she wrote to him in jail from her home in the US. The ceremony took place in the morning followed by an afternoon reception with wedding cake and a buffet
It was well documented at the time that Mr Corbyn (pictured last year), MP for Islington since 1983, attended Mr Hill’s wedding ceremony at the jail that was conducted by the prison Governor. Speaking at the time, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Paul Hill is a constituent of mine. I’ve been visiting him for four years. I believe he is innocent and support the fight for his release’
Corbyn campaigned for their release while also supporting other Irish Republicans at the height of the Troubles.
In the extraordinary wedding snaps Corbyn and McDonnell are seen alongside Conor Foley, who had been wrongly suspected of planting a bomb at Chelsea Barracks; Tom Barron, a prominent Republican activist in London; and Gerry Fitzpatrick, a leading Irish Republican campaigner from Dublin who was living in London at the time.
They were all there in their role lobbying to free the ‘Guildford Four’.
Foley, Barron and Fitzpatrick were regulars at the Irish Centre in Islington, north London, a well known Republican stronghold at the time.
PAUL HILL’S WEDDING GUESTS – WHO’S WHO?
1. Katrina Scanlon (Irish Centre, Islington, worker)
2. Gerry Fitzpatrick (Republican activist)
3. Marion Serravalli (bride)
4. John McDonnell
5. Tom Barron (London based Republican activist)
6. Jeremy Corbyn
7. Conor Foley (Republican activist)
A guest at the wedding and a relative of Mr Hill, who did not want to be named, told MailOnline: ‘They were close to Corbyn, McDonnell and other Labour politicians. They were big players in the London Republican movement and very committed to the cause. As Paul’s family, we never knew the full extent of what they got up to but they were very supportive of his case and that’s all we cared about.’
Following Mr Hill’s release, the trio of campaigners went their separate ways. Mr Foley carved out a career in writing and humanitarian work and now spends his time between Britain and Brazil; Mr Barron got a job as a tube driver and is still in the London area while Mr Fitzpatrick returned to Dublin, where he still resides.
Mr Hill’s bride that late Winter day was American Marion Serravalli, whom he met after writing to him in jail from her home in the United States.
The ceremony took place in the morning followed by an afternoon reception. Prison authorities provided the wedding cake and a buffet lunch but it was paid for by Ms Serravalli and some of Mr Hill’s family. Her wedding dress cost £500 while the overall cost of the wedding was £1,500.
The guest list was drawn up by Mr Hill and Ms Serravalli, who selected those who were his fiercest supporters as well as members of his family. All their names and details had to be provided in advance and were closely vetted by authorities. In total, 15 people attended the ceremony, including Mr Hill’s mother, Lily, who flew in from her home in Belfast.
As guests mingled and posed for photographs, they were watched over by prison guards and Special Branch officers. The wedding lunch finished at 4pm and Mr Hill was then taken back to his cell while his bride and guests returned to London.
Speaking to MailOnline from her home in New Jersey, Ms Serravalli, now 63, said the couple were not allowed to be alone together after the wedding, though they were permitted to ‘hold hands and kiss’ before she was hustled away by friends after the ceremony. She returned to the US nine days later.
Recalling their first meeting and subsequent relationship behind bars, she said: ‘Paul arranged for me to stay with his aunt and uncle. He put me on his visitor’s list and we met for the first time in a little room. At first we just were friend, good friends. But it grew into love.
‘Marriage was something we discussed. Paul wanted to wait until he got out of jail – something we both hoped for – and my mother and father thought getting married while he still was in prison was a mistake. But I was in love. I absolutely was in love.
‘I came back to New Jersey and bought my wedding dress and I bought our rings – matching gold bands with gold beading.’
When she returned to Britain, Mr Hill’s aunt Theresa helped plan the reception. ‘We ordered sandwiches and a fruit cake with icing,’ Ms Serravalli said.
Ms Serravalli, now 63, had flown over for the wedding from her home in New Jersey. Recalling her big day, she said the couple were not allowed to be alone together after the ceremony, though they were permitted to ‘hold hands and kiss’ before she was hustled away by friends afterwards. She returned to the US nine days later
Ms Serravalli (pictured with her groom Mr Hill on on her 1988 wedding day) told MailOnline: ‘Marriage was something we discussed. Paul wanted to wait until he got out of jail – something we both hoped for – and my mother and father thought getting married while he still was in prison was a mistake. But I was in love. I absolutely was in love.’
Ms Serravalli (left) said she knew Mr Hill was innocent since by the time she wrote to him, an IRA cell the Balcombe Street gang said it plotted the bombings. ‘To me there was never a doubt and it was the same with Jeremy Corbyn (right),’ she said.
‘Paul and I both are Catholics and a priest married us in the prison chapel.’ None of her family attended.
‘My mother was scared to fly,’ she explained. ‘The wedding party consisted of Paul’s family and friends.’
One guest said: ‘Given the circumstances it was a lovely occasion. Obviously, there was no alcohol there so it wasn’t your usual Irish wedding. Corbyn and McDonnell were an important part of the campaign to free Paul and he was delighted that they were there. He spent a lot of time speaking with them and was very grateful for their support.’
Ms Serravalli said she always knew Hill was innocent since by the time she penned her first letter to him, an IRA cell known as the Balcombe Street gang had taken credit for the bombings.
In 1989, a year after the wedding, Paul Hill (pictured) and the rest of the Guildford Four were freed when the Court of Appeal ruled false evidence had been used to convict them
‘To me there was never a doubt and it was the same with Jeremy,’ she said. ‘I got a lot of prejudice. People would slam doors in my face. But I wasn’t an IRA supporter. My family were Italian. I began writing to Paul after an Irish-American friend of mine who believed he was framed gave me his prison address.’
In 1989, a year after the wedding, the Guildford Four were freed when the Court of Appeal ruled that false evidence had been used to convict them. But by then Marion had met someone else and she and Hill were soon divorced.
After his release Mr Hill moved to the US where married Courtney Kennedy, a human rights lawyer and daughter of Bobby Kennedy, whom he met when giving a talk about the miscarriage of justice he had suffered. That marriage broke down in 2006.
Mr Hill and Ms Kennedy had a daughter, Saoirse, who died last month at the age of 22 after a suspected drug overdose.
Although it was well documented at the time that Mr Corbyn attended Mr Hill’s wedding, photos of him there have never been published before.
Mr Hill’s brother Patrick has now decided to release the pictures to MailOnline.
Speaking at the time, Mr Corbyn, MP for Islington North since 1983, said: ‘Paul Hill is a constituent of mine. I’ve been visiting him for four years. I believe he is innocent and support the fight for his release. And surely everyone has the right to marry, whatever his condition.’
Although Mr Hill was acquitted, he was only one of the IRA prisoners supported by Mr Corbyn, many of whom were guilty.
In 1986, the Labour leader was arrested at a protest showing ‘solidarity’ for Brighton bomber killer Patrick Magee.
He also supported Hugh Doherty, a notorious IRA murderer who was sentenced to 11 life sentences for the massacre of 16 people.
Mr Corbyn repeatedly demanded more lenient prison conditions for Mr Doherty and other IRA convicts.
The controversial Labour MP also supported the notorious IRA bomb maker Dessie Ellis, who was sentenced to 10 years for explosives offences and is thought to have been behind the Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombs.
Mr Corbyn went on to attend a ceremony in Northern Ireland honouring eight IRA gunmen killed by the SAS.
For his part, Mr McDonnell has received an award from IRA-related groups for his support. In 2015, he was forced to apologise when his comments praising the ‘bombs and bullets’ of the IRA came to light.
In his autobiography called ‘Stolen Years’, Mr Hill revealed his close links and friendship to the now Labour leader.
‘After the 1983 General Election a number of other Labour MPs took up our case. One of the most notable was Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, in whose constituency I had once lived,’ he said.
‘Jeremy was tireless in his work on behalf of the Guildford Four and visited me several times in prison to discuss my conditions and the case.’
Of the wedding itself, he said: ‘The ceremony took place in the chapel at Long Lartin. The guests were outnumbered by screws and Special Branch men. In these circumstances, it held no magic for me and I was keen to get it over with as quickly as possible.
‘After the vows were exchanged, I was taken back to my cell for a couple of hours while the screws had their lunch. At 2pm I was unlocked and taken to the reception.
After his release from jail, Mr Hill’s marriage collapsed and he moved to the US where he wed human rights lawyer Courtney Kennedy (above), daughter of Bobby Kennedy, whom he met giving a talk about the miscarriage of justice he had suffered
Mr Hill and Ms Kennedy had a daughter, Saoirse, who died last month at the age of 22 after a suspected drug overdose at the Kennedy family compound in Cape Cod. Mr Hill was seen carrying his tragic daughter’s coffin at the funeral last month
Mr Hill fathered Saoirse after leaving jail in 1989 when his conviction was quashed. He was seen with the Kennedy clan carrying his daughter’s coffin at last month’s funeral. His marriage to Saoirse’s mother Courtney Kennedy broke down in 2006
‘Among the guests were members of my family, and people who helped Errol and Theresa (Smalley, his uncle and aunt) with the campaign – Tom Barron, John McDonnell, Gerry Fitzpatrick, Conor Foley and Richard Wize.
‘It was the first chance I had to talk to them and thank them for the work they had done. Jeremy Corbyn was also present.
‘The reception lasted for two hours. At 4pm I was separated from my wife and guests, and taken back to my cell. I lay on the bed and thought of Marion driving back to London.
‘Some friends of mine had brewed up a batch of hooch, and that night I got drunk. I was glad; it wiped out the feelings I had about the day’s proceedings. They were not happy ones.’
This content was originally published here.
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