Belfast Telegraph

Fake council posters calling for release of ex-IRA man from jail angers unionists

By Leona O'Neill

The erection of fake council posters calling for the release of leading a Londonderry dissident republican has outraged unionists.

Yesterday afternoon two large posters calling for the release of Tony Taylor and bearing the official Derry City and Strabane District logo were erected.

They were placed on the roundabout outside the Guildhall and at the 'Let the Dance Begin' tin sculptures in Strabane by people in official high-visibility council jackets.

The council has denied it commissioned or erected the posters.

Mr Taylor is a former IRA man who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1994, and again jailed for three years in 2011.

However, his licence was revoked in March 2016.

Nationalist and republican councillors have long called for his release, stating there is no evidence of any wrongdoing. Back in 2016, the council backed a motion tabled by independent councillor Gary Donnelly to call for Mr Taylor's immediate release.

The message on the poster mirrors that of Mr Donnelly's motion, stating: "Former 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. This council calls for Tony's immediate release."

A large blue Derry City and Strabane District Council logo sits below the statement.

DUP councillor David Ramsey said that the posters were "insulting, dangerous and damaging to community relations".

"It is strange, to say the least, that an official council logo would be used to promote the release of a convicted terrorist," he said. "This man clearly wasn't reformed by his time in prison. For unionists, we just see this man as a danger to our community and to everyone in our city.

"I'm a councillor with Derry City and Strabane District Council.

"Our official council logo is there calling for the release of an unrepentant terrorist, which is very shocking.

"I would also say that it is dangerous because it's like saying that the council - although they did pass a motion to support the campaign for his release - is promoting his release.

"It's labelling the council as supporting a known terrorist.

"It's like putting two fingers up to the law.

"There are major questions to be asked on how someone can use the logo in this way. It is not good for community relations at all. It is an insult and it is dangerous."

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council said that it did not commission or erect the posters.

Taylor has been in jail since March 2016, having previously been released on licence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He had been sentenced to 18 years in jail in 1994 for planting an IRA bomb in Londonderry.

He was also jailed for three years in 2011 for possession of a rifle.

Taylor was released from Maghaberry Prison in 2014, but two years later the then Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, revoked his licence "because of the risk he poses to the public".

No formal charges were laid against him.

Last year, Sinn Fein Mayor of Derry and Strabane Council Maoliosa McHugh came under fire for addressing a rally supporting Taylor's release while wearing his chain of office.

The move sparked unionist anger, with accusations that the mayor was unable to represent the whole community. However, Mr McHugh said there was "a corporate position as far as Tony Taylor is concerned and I was reflecting the corporate position of the council as mayor".

Belfast Telegraph

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