Ford refuses release of Brendan Lillis

There have been demands for the resignation of Six-County Justice Minister David Ford after he rejected an appeal by the broad nationalist community for the release of a dying prisoner today.
Brendan Lillis suffers from a crippling disease of the skeletal system known as Ankylosing Spondilitis.  A former political prisoner, he was interned by an edict of the British government two years.
His partner Roisin Lynch was accompanied at a meeting with the Justice
Minister this afternoon by Jennifer McCann of Sinn Fein and the SDLP’s
Colum Eastwood and Tim Atwood.

At the meeting, Roisin handed the Minister a letter from the Vice
President of the European Parliament Roberta Angelilli, in which she
said she suspected the Stormont administration had violated Brendan’s
fundamental human rights.

Roisin also read an extract from an independent medical report on
Brendan’s illness.

“Mr Lillis’s condition gives cause for very serious concern,” the
doctor’s report read. “I believe he will die in Maghaberry prison
because he is suffering with an advanced condition which requires
specialist and ongoing attention.

“The man who was over 6 ft tall is now under 6 stone and is drifting in
out of conscious.

“His cognitive abilities are severely compromised and his medication
also contributes to his mental confusion. He quite clearly poses no risk
to others as he is himself at imminent risk of death in his place of

Nevertheless, Ford, who is leader of the pro-unionist Alliance Party,
dismissed the appeals and said that he would seek additional independent
medical advice.  He told Roisin that he was not responsible for
Brendan’s continued incarceration.

“The department refers the cases of recalled life sentence prisoners to
the independent parole commissioners who will direct the prisoner’s
release on licence if satisfied that the prisoner does not pose a risk
of serious harm to the public,” he said.

“As with any life sentence prisoner who has been recalled to prison, Mr
Lillis’s case has been referred to the commissioners.”

Last week, parole commissioners who reviewed the case ruled Brendan
would not be released on compassionate grounds and even suggested he
could commit new offences.

Ford today also again today that Brendan’s health needs were being met
inside Maghaberry’s medical unit.

His refusal to release the former blanketman and his denial of
responsibility has shocked and outraged supporters, who had hoped today
would mark the beginning of the end to Brendan’s agony.

The SDLP said “the power is in the hands of David Ford and he must make
the right decision and do so immediately. Brendan Lillis is not a threat
to society and should be allowed home.”

Councillor Eastwood commended the manner in which Roisin “has taken her
campaign and carried it with dignity for her loved one”.

He said her partner cannot be allowed to die in jail.

“The devolution of justice powers was a welcome step, as justice
minister David Ford can make another welcome step. He should do so
without delay.”

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