'Release Brendan Lillis' campaigners go on hunger strike
Published 22/07/2011 | 01:16
Campaigners calling for the release from jail of a seriously ill Belfast man convicted of possessing explosives over three decades ago have begun a hunger strike.
West Belfast man Brendan Lillis is currently being treated in the hospital wing of Maghaberry prison for Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis that mainly affects the spine.
Last night his partner Roisin Lynch said the former IRA man is confined to bed and has just days to live.
The 59-year-old was sentenced to life in 1977 on explosives charges and served almost 16 years of that sentence before being released on licence in 1992.
After his recent arrest he was told he will have to serve the rest of his original life sentence.
All charges against Mr Lillis, who weighs just five stone, were shelved last year because he was deemed too unwell to stand trial.
Yesterday Mr Lillis's partner of 12 years was joined by supporters at the site of the former Andersonstown RUC base where they began a hunger strike.
Roisin Lynch has shown her support for Mr Lillis.
She said: "I intend to stay on this protest until the end. I have tried everything over the past two years. I have contacted politicians and human rights groups but got nowhere. I have tried to meet with the minister for Justice David Ford but he won't meet me and won't speak to me.
"Brendan's life is in his hands. If he dies it will be David Ford's responsibility."
Former IRA hunger striker Gerard Hodgkins served time in jail with Mr Lillis and is taking part in a token three-day fast in support of his friend.
He said: "Brendan has no political affiliations at all, he is on his own and has no-one to campaign for him. If this man is going to die he should be allowed to do so with his family and a bit of dignity."
A spokesman for the Prison Service said: "The case is currently being considered by the Parole Commissioners, who, as an independent body, will consider all the evidence presented to them. This process is ongoing.
"Given the current circumstances applying to this case, there are not sufficient and exceptional grounds which would justify the release of Mr Lillis on compassionate grounds."
Brendan Lillis was arrested for his part in an attempted Tiger kidnapping in October 2009. A former prisoner his early release licence was revoked by then Secretary of State Shaun Woodward. Mr Lillis's partner his called for his release from jail saying he only has days to live.