The treatment of Derry republican Tony Taylor has been likened to that suffered by Ibrahim Halawa, the young Dubliner who spent four years in a jail outside Cairo after being arrested in the wake of the Egyptian coup d’etat of 2013.
The comparison was made by Dublin socialist T.D., Clare Daly, when the Taylor case was raised in the Dáil this week.
Deputy Daly blasted the ‘non-transparent quasi-judicial’ treatment of Mr. Taylor by successive secretaries of state.
She said it was akin to the injustice meted out to Mr. Halawa by the Egyptian military and judicial establishment after he was jailed for protesting the ousting of the country’s former President Mohamed Morsi five years ago.
“There is a strange irony in the similarity of the cases of Tony Taylor and Ibrahim Halawa. People were justifiably outraged by occurrences in the latter case such as court dates being cancelled, the accused having no clue as to the charges against him and both he and his legal team being left in the dark,” she said.
“That is exactly what is happening on this island to Tony Taylor and his legal representatives.
“It is setting an incredibly worrying precedent which is adding to political instability in Northern Ireland at a time when some dissident groups have renounced violence and committed to peace.
“It is undermining that process. It is the continuance of a non-transparent quasi-judicial legal system which involves gross violations of human rights and should be consigned to history,” she said.
The matter was raised by Independent T.D., Maureen O’Sullivan, after a parole hearing for Mr. Taylor was long-fingered until the autumn.
Mr. Taylor has spent over two years in jail after having his licence revoked on March 10, 2016, by the former Secretary of State for the North, Theresa Villiers, on the basis of ‘intelligence’ that has not been disclosed to his solicitors or in open court.
“A core element of the justice system is the right for a person to know the case against him or her. With closed material, the defendant is at a severe disadvantage,” said Deputy O’Sullivan.
The Tánaiste, Simon Coveney, said he believed the latest parole delay was of “particular concern”, as was the fact Mr. Taylor has been held for over two years without being charged with any new offences. He said he would write to the current Secretary of State Karen Bradley about the Taylor case.
He noted that Mr. Taylor, a former member of the anti-Good Friday Agreement Republican Network of Unity (RNU) organisation, has indicated he has no intention of resuming ‘dissident republican activity’.
The Tánaiste remarked: “I am aware that Mr. Taylor has publicly renounced any future engagement in dissident republican activity. I have received a letter from his wife, Lorraine, and I am aware of their difficult family circumstances.
“I am also aware that there is a level of concern in the nationalist and republican community in Northern Ireland about the basis for and nature of Mr. Taylor’s ongoing detention.
“They have all been reflected in our ongoing engagement with the Northern Ireland Office on the matter. The recent indication that Mr. Taylor’s new parole hearing may take much longer than expected is of particular concern as he has now been in detention for over two years without being charged with or convicted of any new offence.
“My officials and I will continue to monitor developments in the case and raise it with the NIO.
“I will write to the Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, about the case and will raise it when I meet her in London tomorrow [Thursday].
“There are legal sensitivities of which we must be aware, but I understand the growing concern about this matter. Having been in Derry last week, I appreciate how it is contributing negatively to community tensions in an unwelcome way.”
Fianna Fáil T.D. Éamon Ó Cuív asked Mr. Coveney to convey his anger to the Secretary of State over her alleged refusal to meet concerned T.D.s to discuss the Taylor case.
“Will the Tánaiste convey to her our disgust that a Secretary of State does not see fit to meet representatives of the Oireachtas in reasonable time when they request a meeting to discuss a serious matter?” he said.