Why is Tony in jail? Heartbroken wife of Derry republican asks SoS in plaintive Christmas letter

Tony Taylor with his Lorraine and, son Bliain and daughters Nicole and Ellie-Jo.
Tony Taylor with his Lorraine and, son Bliain and daughters Nicole and Ellie-Jo.

The wife of Derry republican Tony Taylor has written a plaintive letter to Secretary of State James Brokenshire emphasising how her husband’s continued detention in Maghaberry will make it a “very rough Christmas” for her entire family.

Lorraine Taylor said her husband’s incarceration since March, which has been described as “political”, “extrajudicial” and a “denial of due process” by MLAs at Stormont, is punishing the “whole Taylor family, young and old”.

In a moving Christmas letter, addressed to Mr Brokenshire and Justice Minister Claire Sugden, she wrote: “As his wife, I will miss him terribly; I will miss his friendship, his love and his support; his smiling face under a paper hat at the dinner table; playing games with our children.

“Our two girls [Nicole and Ellie-Jo] are heart sore worrying about their daddy. There will be no Christmas hugs or gifts-swapping or pulling crackers - just a short time on a phone before he is locked back into a small cell. There will, undoubtedly, be a visit at some stage, but the cold artificial and public nature of it, and the levels of stress it brings, contrast starkly with the warmth of our family home.”

Mrs Taylor said the “biggest loser” this Christmas will be her disabled son Bliain.

“He misses his father so much; it hurts to look at him. And his heartache is compounded by the fact that he hasn’t been able to see Tony recently, due to punitive restrictions on his visits. And those visits, given the extent of Bliain’s disabilities, and his constant pining for his father, are fraught enough already,” she declared.

Mr Taylor’s elderly parents Willie and Veronica, have also been deeply affected by their son’s continued imprisonment. She said it will be a sad Christmas in the Taylor home.

“On a simple human level, what we will have this Christmas Day in our home is three young children, two loving elderly parents and a broken-hearted wife looking at Tony’s chair at the table, and wondering why no-one will tell us why it’s empty,” she wrote.

Mr Taylor, a spokesman for the Derry branch of Republican Network for Unity (RNU) has been in jail since the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers revoked his prison licence in early March.

Derry City and Strabane District Council passed a motion in April calling for Mr Taylor’s immediate release, whilst local MLAs have also urged the current Secretary of State, Mr Brokenshire, to set him free.

Turn to Page 41 for Lorraine Taylor’s full open letter to Mr Brokenshire and Justice Minister Claire Sugden.