Heartbreak for Derry family of interned prisoner

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The elderly father of a political prisoner who’s been in jail for almost 1,000 days without charge or trial has written a heartfelt letter to the British government pleading for his son’s release.

The continued detention without trial of Tony Taylor has been raised by the Dublin government and his release called for by councils north and south.

Willie Taylor, from Creggan, says his son Tony’s continued detention in Maghaberry Prison is ‘merciless and vindictive’.

Mr Taylor, who has a serious illness and is housebound, says both he and his wife, Veronica, who has dementia, fear they may never see their son again.

“We are both now far too ill to travel to see Tony in jail”, he says in a letter to British Direct Ruler Karen Bradley. “Indeed, my wife is at the stage where she would be unlikely to recognise her son. Our one great fear is that one of us would pass without Tony having the chance to see us again.”

Tony Taylor, a lifelong republican activist and father of three, has been behind bars without charge or trial since March 2016 after his release licence was revoked by former Tory Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers.

Willie Taylor says his family’s worries are aggravated by the fact that “we know all Tony wants to do is be with us and that he wants to devote the rest of his life to supporting his family.”

Mr Taylor says that, prior to his return to jail, both he and his wife relied heavily on their son - “he was our rock” - particularly as their illnesses worsened.

“Things would be made much easier if he were here”, he said.

Willie Taylor’s letter goes on: “Tony was also a primary carer for his son, Blaine, who is severely autistic and is also physically disabled. Blaine misses his father terribly and I have no doubt that his condition is compounded by Tony’s absence.”

Mr Taylor says his son’s wife, Lorraine, has been forced to bear the burden of raising her family on her own for too long.

“She needs her husband back - as much as the children need their daddy,” he adds.

Mr Taylor says he believes his son is sincere in his desire for a peaceful future.

“Tony, a principled republican activist, has made it clear to his family, friends and associates that he fully supported the recent ceasefire announcement by Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) and he publicly reaffirmed his position in this regard in recent times.”

His letter to Bradley ends: “Veronica and I just want Tony home. We are fearful that, if the legal processes are delayed any longer, it will be too late for us.

“We love our son and we miss our son, every single day. We need him. We beseech you, on humanitarian grounds, to return him to us.”

Eirigi spokesperson Breandan MacCionnaith again called for his immediate and unconditional release.

“Tony Taylor has now been imprisoned for almost 1,000 days without a shred of evidence being provided by the British state,” he said.

“This represents a gross violation of not only Tony’s human rights, but also of the very concept of justice. It is a basic principle of any justice system that the accused has the right to defend themselves in open court against any charges that have been laid against them.”

He added: “It is now more than twenty years since we were told that the Good Friday Agreement would usher in a new era of policing and justice in the Six Counties. Tony Taylor’s case that that new era has failed to materialise. The fact that a British Direct Ruler can order the detention of a man without trial for almost three years highlights just how dysfunctional the Six County state remains.”

‘SHOCKING’ PSNI INTERVENTION

Meanwhile, the Police Ombudsman has launched an investigation after a complaint was made in relation to a post by the PSNI about the ongoing case.

The post appeared on the PSNI Craigavon Facebook page last week and came as the postponed parole hearing was due to take place. It has since been removed, but was described as “malicious” in nature.

Independent Derry councillor Gary Donnelly described the incident as ‘shocking’ and called for an investigation. He said that while the removal of the post was an acceptance of wrongdoing on the part of the PSNI, it points to ‘much deeper fundamental problems’ within the force.

“Here was a live tribunal which is heavily stacked against Tony Taylor and whilst that was still live these people were trying to influence the public through social media,” he said.

“If myself or anybody else had engaged in that type of behaviour then we would face the full consequences.

“Tony should be released anyway as far as I’m concerned and this is just another pointer that Tony or anyone else who doesn’t accept the establishment here, this is what they’re going to face.”

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