Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Freed Brendan Lillis 'may be cared for at home eventually'

A former IRA prisoner whose release from jail sparked a political row may eventually be allowed to live at home, his partner has claimed.

Brendan Lillis, who suffers from a debilitating arthritic condition, was released from prison last week by the Parole Commission following a high-profile campaign by nationalist politicians and his partner Roisin Lynch.

Ms Lynch spoke out yesterday after the DUP met the parole commissioners to protest at Mr Lillis's release and to demand a toughening of the law.

Lillis (below) suffers from a rare type of spinal arthritis which has a genetic component. Several of his relatives have died while suffering from the condition. His sister Rosaleen died the age of 50 and Mr Lillis is now 60.

There is no cure for the degenerative condition and, Ms Lynch, said that he had been unable to sit down for over a year.

She said: "We do hope that he will be able to return home, but we are talking about a care package with people calling four times a day to look after his washing needs, his toilet needs and so on. It is going to be a long, slow process."

The Lillis case has focused unprecedented attention on the release provisions for prisoners. A Troubles-era IRA lifer who served 16 years, Lillis was returned to jail after being accused of breaking the terms of his parole by taking part in an alleged kidnapping. However, he was judged too ill to stand trial for the offences.

If his condition improves he could still be put on trial.

Last month David Ford, the Justice Minister, refused to release him from his life sentence on compassionate grounds. Mr Ford said his best medical advice was that Mr Lillis was not in imminent danger of death, as Ms Lynch had earlier suggested, and that he could receive as good a treatment in the prison hospital in Maghaberry as in Belfast City Hospital, where he is now receiving medical attention.

However, Mr Ford did allow Mr Lillis to go for treatment in the City and later referred the case to the Parole Commission, which released the republican prisoner.

Yesterday Paul Givan, DUP chair of the justice committee, met the commissioners. He said they were barred from making the specific details of their decision public. Mr Givan is pressing for a change in the legislation: "In other jurisdictions, like Canada, full details of such a hearing are made public," he said.

He added that Mr Lillis had been released on the grounds that he was no longer a danger to society due to his illness. Ms Lynch agreed that this was the case.

Mr Givan said that the commission should be able to take a wider range of medical evidence before making a decision. Christine Glenn, the chief commissioner, confirmed that the body had refused to meet Edwin Poots, the DUP Health Minister, who had accompanied Mr Givan.

Brendan Lillis was released on licence after serving 16 years of a life sentence for explosive offences in 1992.

He was arrested on tiger kidnapping charges in 2009 but found unfit to stand trial because he suffers from Ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis.

He was returned to jail to complete his life sentence but released a few days ago by the Parole Commission.

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