Sinn Féin senator Niall Ó Donnghaile says the ‘intelligence’ on which the imprisonment of Derry republican Tony Taylor is based emanates from the same ‘obscure outlets’ that once claimed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and must be tested in open court.
The former Lord Mayor of Belfast issued the call in the Seanad this week after raising Mr. Taylor’s case once again with the Tánaiste, Simon Coveney.
“We have consistently stated that if there is evidence against Mr. Taylor, it should be presented to him and his legal team in open court,” he told the Seanad on Tuesday.
“I contend that the most basic right of those who find themselves in prison, particularly for such a prolonged period of time, is to have an opportunity to address and challenge any evidence or any case against them, if such evidence or such a case exists.
“As the Tánaiste will be aware, the problem is that we are being asked to place our trust and our faith in faceless secret British intelligence agencies and services.
“The same people have refused to release their files on the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I suggest that these obscure outlets are not exactly the most trustworthy,” said Senator Ó Donnghaile.
Mr. Taylor was blown up in a premature mortar bomb attack in Derry in 1994, released under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), only to later serve a further three year jail term for the possession of a rifle in 2011. His case has been the subject of a long-running cross-partisan campaign across the island.
At the heart of campaigners’ concerns is the summary revocation of his licence by the former Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, on the basis of an MI5 intelligence assessment and his return to prison in 2016. The Tánaiste promised to continue to press the current Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, on the matter,
“A further review by the parole commissioners is under way and there had been an expectation that the review would conclude in the coming weeks.
"However, we understand from discussions with the Northern Ireland Office and Mr. Taylor’s legal representatives that there may be some delay in that process. This is clearly not ideal and we have urged that every effort be made to avoid unnecessary delays,” he said.
Mr. Taylor’s recent membership of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU), a political group viewed as sympathetic to the now on ceasefire Óglaigh na hÉireann organisation, was also raised by Mr. Coveney.
He noted that Mr. Taylor had renounced any future engagement in dissident republican activity.
He added: “On the case in question, the dissident republican group to which Mr. Tony Taylor was connected has made clear statements renouncing violence, which I welcome.
"I do not know whether information is held on Mr. Taylor that can justify him being in prison. We have raised our concerns about the case. Holding somebody without publicly producing evidence against them raises real concerns, as I have witnessed in Derry in speaking to people.”