Are we all stupid idiots? Have we learnt nothing? Does anyone, besides relatives and friends really care? Is history being allowed to repeat itself? Seems so!
I remember writing letters to editors on the same topic more than thirty years ago. Alas, I refer of course to the on-going ‘dirty protest’ in HMP Maghaberry. Let’s recognize, and admit, that such is rooted in the blatant non-implementation of an alleged agreement of August 12th 2010. From March 1976 friends joined that form of protest. In 1981, the emaciated bodies of three of them where carried out of Long Kesh in coffins.
My concerns, and that of other civil rights veterans, relate also to the plight of one prisoner, Brendan Lillis, who is seriously ill. We feel that the powers-that-be should immediately grant his immediate release on compassionate grounds. Besides being in extremely poor health, we are informed that he remains incarcerated even though he is facing no charge.
Brendan, known as ‘BL’, suffers from a painful and incurable condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which has rendered him bedridden for many months, and who has been deemed in a January 2010 High Court ruling to be unfit to stand trial. Despite this, and despite the charges against him subsequently being dropped, this man remains held in isolation, bedridden, with no access to fresh air or the outside world, denied the regular physical therapy that he badly needs, and without the specialist medical care that could ease the remainder of life that God, or fate, has allotted him..
I venture to point out, to all and sundry, that there are certain standards that civilized peoples expect in 2011 AD. Does the ‘new’ Stormont establishment need to be made aware that ‘BL’ is protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the continued detention of this man is in contradiction of Article 5, the Right to Liberty and Security – specifically the duty the state owes ‘BL’ to inform him of the reason for his continued detention; and Article 6, the Right to a Fair Trial. We are also aware that ‘BL’ has a protected right under the EU HR Convention to the Provision of Medical Services under Article 2, the Right to Life.
Therefore, as a matter of some urgency, I appeal to the relevant authorities, Justice Minister, David Ford and other politicians, human rights and civil liberties groups et al, to take whatever steps necessary to secure his immediately release. We feel ‘BL’ should be sent back to his family and other loved ones. On the “outside” he will have access to specialist care for his rare, incurable and painful medical condition. This man is a threat to no-one in this condition, and his release is the right and humane thing to do!
Fionnbarra O’Dochartaigh, Co-founder, NICRA 1967.