by editor | 19th July 2011 2:28 pm
Supporters of critically ill Maghaberry prisoner Brendan Lillis are to stage a hunger protest in a last-ditch attempt to convince the Stormont
and British authorities to release him from prison before he dies. His partner Roisin Lynch will be joined by former comrades from
Brendan’s days on the Blanket protest in the late 70s, as well as other former prisoners and concerned individuals.
The action is designed to highlight the lack of any movement in securing his release, even as his condition, a debilitating illness known as
ankylosing spondylitis, has deteriorated.
It begins at noon on Thursday at the site of the old Andersonstown
Barracks in west Belfast and is due to last three days.
Meanwhile, a long-awaited meeting tomorrow [Tuesday] with the Parole
Commission, which has the power to grant Brendan a possible parole, is
now being described as a planning meeting only.
In recent weeks, the Six County Minister for Justice and the Office of
the Prisoner Ombudsman have both denied being responsibility for Mr
Lillis’s continued suffering, and appeared to have washed their hands of
His partner now believes that, unless there is significant public
pressure for his release, the only way Brendan will emerge from prison
is in a coffin.
A former Irish republican political prisoner who served a life sentence
as a result of his role in the armed struggle, Brendan served 16 years
for possession of explosives and firearms.
B.L., as he was known to his friends and comrades, was released on
license in 1992. While in prison he took part in the many protests
against the British government’s criminalisation policy.
In 2009 he appeared in court on a robbery-related charge, a charge which
was not proceeded with.
Nevertheless, shortly after his arrest on this charge, the British
government withdrew his license, which automatically reactivated his
life sentence. He is now one of a number of former prisoners returned to
jail — interned — not for any act they have committed, but because the
authorities claim they may commit an offence at some time in the future.
His supporters have argued that he is a prisoner of conscience, serving
a life sentence only for being a perceived threat to the status quo.
At the weekend, Derry-based Sinn Fein Assembly member Raymond McCartney
issued a statement calling for his immediate release.
Speaking after a visit to Maghaberry, he said: “Sinn Fein is totally
opposed to former political prisoners being held in prison by revoking
“Now that the charges against Brendan Lillis are not being brought
forward he should be released immediately.
“Given the urgency of Brendan Lillis’ very serious medical condition in
the prison hospital, I would appeal for his immediate release on
“Sinn Fein has been in contact with the Department of Justice and the
Sentence Review Commission and we have called on them to deal with this
case without delay.”
In a statement issued through his partner, Roisin Lynch, the campaign
for his release said tonight:
“Brendan Lillis is no threat to anybody.
“Brendan Lillis is dying and has been abandoned by an entire political
system which is more interested in making statements about his condition
than in applying their political power to remedy the situation.”
They called for his immediate release “so that whatever time Brendan has
left on this earth be spent with his immediate family. Brendan Lillis
can not walk, he can not get up from his bed. He is incapacitated, and
he is being left alone to die in a prison cell.
“We have seen enough of our people die in prison cells and find the
manner in which Brendan is being treated as an obscenity… We call on
all people concerned with this grave injustice to come along [to the
Andersonstown protest] on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and register your
support for a sick and dying man being held hostage by a vindictive and
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