Belfast Telegraph

Tanaiste Simon Coveney under fire for intervening in jailed dissident case

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has come under fire after intervening in the case of jailed dissident republican Tony Taylor.

Speaking in the Dail last week Mr Coveney, who also serves as Tanaiste - equivalent to deputy prime minister - said that it was of "particular concern" that Taylor's latest parole hearing could take much longer than expected.

He said his department were in regular contact with the Northern Ireland Office regarding Mr Taylor's case and that he would personally raise it with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley.

Mr Coveney also revealed that Mr Taylor had twice been visited in prison by Irish Foreign Office officials.

Taylor was returned to Maghaberry Prison in March 2016, on the instructions of the then Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) said his licence was revoked by the Parole Commission because of the risk he posed to the public.

However, he has not been charged with or convicted of any new offence.

Taylor, a former IRA man, was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1994 after he was seriously injured in a premature explosion in Derry.

He was then released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2011, Taylor was then sentenced to three years behind bars for possession of a rifle in a case that made history by using covert surveillance evidence gathered by a drone.

Mr Taylor's wife Lorraine told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme that his incarceration was having a "devastating effect" on the family.

The couple's 24-year-old son Blaine is severely disabled and his father acted as his primary carer before his imprisonment.

Mrs Taylor said her husband had been "taken hostage and put in jail for no reason."

She said that because her husband is an Irish citizen it is only right the Irish government intervenes in the case.

Also speaking on the programme, DUP MLA Paul Frew said that the Irish Government should stay out of the issue.

"It is important not to make statements that risk inflaming community tensions further and undermining the justice system in the United Kingdom.

"Simon Coveney can say what he wishes but there is enough issues on his desk, not least issues relating to terrorism, that he can be helping the UK with in order to get truth and justice.

"Politicians can cause hurt, people have suffered in our terrorist campaigns and the Troubles we have lived through. I feel he has used this as a useful fool for his office.

"The Parole Commissioner has deemed that Tony Taylor poses a risk to the public and I am glad people like that are off the streets."

Former Northern Ireland Justice Minister and Alliance leader David Ford said politicians should not get engaged in active judicial process.

"I think Simon Coveney is unwise to have gotten engaged in this and this is not a political issue.

"From my experience in seeing similar cases, I was satisfied that the Parole Commissioners acted on proper evidence, the standards of proof when returning someone on licence are no the "beyond reasonable doubt" for the conviction in the first place.

"They are taken at a lower level of probability to provide public protection."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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