The former People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann says Derry republican Tony Taylor is being denied the due process people marched for on Bloody Sunday.
Mr. McCann said Mr. Taylor who has been in jail since having his licence revoked by the former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers last May has been detained without sufficient explanation from the authorities.
Speaking during one of the last debates of the last Assembly prior to its dissolution yesterday, Mr. McCann again called for Mr. Taylor’s release.
“He was arrested because the then Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, signed a document saying that she believed that he was involved in activities which made it proper and acceptable to send him back to prison,” he told MLAs on Tuesday.
“When asked what these activities were - ‘I am not telling you.’; ‘Who gave you to believe that he was involved in these activities?’; ‘The security services’; ‘Did they give you the information?’; ‘Yes, they did’; ‘Will you tell us?’; ‘No, we will not tell you’. What am I to say - what is anybody to say - to Lorraine Taylor, Tony Taylor’s wife? She does not know how long he is going to be in as it is open-ended. Will it be a year, two years or three years? His wife and family have not been told why,” said Mr. McCann.
He told fellow MLAs that it isn’t right for any citizen to be detained by the state without being given a reason why, and argued that “due process has to mean something”.
Mr. McCann said lessons from history teach that arbitrary detention has a counterproductive effect.
“In the last half-century, when the denial of liberty to citizens without charge or trial resulted in a booster shot to violence in Northern Ireland such as we have had from no other particular incident,” he said.
Mr. McCann argued that no matter how much one might to want to deal with suspected subversive activity it never justifies locking someone up without explanation.
“Occasionally, here and outside, we refer to the major atrocities that have taken place. I include, just for the sake of the record and in case anybody suggests I would think otherwise, Enniskillen, Teebane and the dreadful, unjustified and unjustifiable atrocity in Birmingham in December 1974, when innocent people were blown to bits,” said Mr. McCann.
“When we talk about atrocities visited on citizens, I am not being exclusive about it; I am saying that our horror at such things, our empathy with the grief of those left behind, must not spill over into saying that any measure is acceptable to deal with this sort of thing and stop it. Actually, it does not stop this sort of thing.”
Mr. McCann said arbitrary detention and the denial of justice are what people were marching against on Bloody Sunday.
“The Bloody Sunday march was a march against internment and for due process. People had placards saying: We want somebody to be charged and tried before being put in jail. We cannot have it on the basis of a Government in Stormont, Westminster or anywhere else saying, ‘We think this is a dangerous person and they should be put into prison’.”