The elderly housebound father of a Derry man who’s been in jail for almost 1,000 days without charge or trial has written a heartfelt letter to the NI Secretary of State pleading for his son’s release.
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, 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 his letter to Secretary of State 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a father of three, has been behind bars without charge or trial since March 2016 after his early release licence was revoked by then Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.
He was sentenced to 18 years in jail in 1994 for IRA activity and again for three years in 2011 for possession of a rifle.
His continued detention without trial has been raised by the Irish government and his release called for by councils north and south.
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 added.
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 Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) and he publicly reaffirmed his position in this regard in recent times.”
His letter to the NI Secretary 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.”