Villiers' office defends jailing of Derry Republican

The Office of Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has defended its decision to arrest and imprison Derry Republican Tony Taylor.

Tuesday, 5th April 2016, 9:56 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th April 2016, 11:08 am
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. (Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©)

The Northern Ireland Office was responding after Derry City & Strabane District Council yesterday called for Mr Taylor’s immediate release, and raised concerns over his human rights.

A motion tabled by Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly called for British Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to release Mr Taylor, stating that his license has been revoked for no reason.

Tony Taylor was arrested at his home in Derry last month and taken to Maghaberry Prison.

Tony Taylor, Republican Network for Unity (RNU) spokesperson. 2509JM05

The 48-year-old, who is a member of the ard chomhairle of the Republican Network for Unity group, was released from Maghaberry Prison in 2014 after serving a three year sentence for possessing a rifle.

Back in 1994, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he was seriously injured in a premature explosion in Derry. He was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

A majority of councillors backed Colr. Donnelly’s motion sat the meeting on Monday, while dozens of people lined the front of the Guildhall in a protest against his incarceration, prior to the meeting.

An NIO spokeswoman however said: “Mr Taylor pleaded guilty to serious firearms offences, the sentence for which he was completing while released on licence.

Tony Taylor, Republican Network for Unity (RNU) spokesperson. 2509JM05

“The law provides that individuals may be recalled to prison to serve the remainder of their sentence if they breach the conditions of their licence. On this basis the Secretary of State has revoked Mr Taylors licence.

“A full hearing by the independent Parole Commissioners will take place to consider the basis on which his licence was revoked at which Mr Taylor will have full legal representation.”

The spokeswoman added: “The Secretary of State’s priority is the protection of the public and she must act on information indicating if they are at risk of serious harm.

“As proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate for the NIO to comment any further.”

In the Council Chamber on Monday, Colr. Donnelly stated that British Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers “in conjunction with unaccountable intelligence agencies has ordered the incarceration of Derry Republican Tony Taylor without charge or trial”.

Speaking to his motion, Colr Donnelly said: “The arrest of Tony Taylor is a disgrace. The British system here is farcical. It is not designed to administer justice.

“Tony was arrested without any shred of evidence being put before anyone.”

Colr. Donnelly said there was no objective evidence of any breach of license, and said it was even admitted by Teresa Villiers herself that the revocation was outside normal justice practice.

“We have to ask the question: who’s agenda is being pursued here?” Colr. Donnelly said.

“His imprisonment should be a matter of concern for all those with an interest in human rights,” he said.

Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin said his party “fully support the motion”, while SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said that having the ability to arrive at someone’s home and take them into prison without explanation or evidence was an abuse of the most basic human rights.

DUP Councillor Graham Warke however listed Mr Taylor’s previous sentences, adding: “The DUP feel that this motion should never have been brought into this council in the first place.”

A vote was taken on Colr. Tierney’s amendment with nine councillors in favour of it to 27 against.

The original motion by Colr. Donnelly was however passed by 28 Councillors in favour to eight against.