BELFAST — IN Northern Ireland, the reaction to the release of the Guildford Four, which was widely covered here, has been swift and predictable. ``I hope that this long overdue development will also open the door for those other people detained in British jails whom so many of us believe to be the victims of gross miscarriages of justice,'' said Seamus Mallon, deputy leader of the mainly Roman Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party, which favors Irish unity by peaceful means.
But Nigel Dodds, of the Democratic Unionist Party, which represents a section of hard-line Protestants, said, ``This decision will be seen by many people as a sop to Dublin and to Irish Nationalist politicians, and a bid to prop up the discredited Anglo-Irish Agreement.''
There is clearly a sense of disquiet about revelations from the British prosecutor that five policemen had misled the court at the trial. And there is anticipation on all sides that there will be strenuous attempts to reopen two other controversial cases: the Birmingham Six and the Macguire case.
In the first case, six men were jailed for life following bomb attacks in 1974 in Birmingham, when 21 young people died. They professed their innocence, but after a long campaign their appeal was rejected last year.
The second controversial judgment was the Maguire case. In the aftermath of the Guildford bombings, Annie Maguire, a Belfast woman, five members of her family, and a friend were arrested after one of the Guildford Four had allegedly confessed to learning how to produce bombs in ``Aunt Annie's kitchen.''
Mrs. Maguire and the others were later given long prison sentences, but they all professed their innocence.
Maguire was released in 1985 after serving five years of her 10-year sentence, the normal period of remission under British law.