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DUP's Gary Middleton furious over council call for jailed republican Tony Taylor to be released

Tony Taylor

A call from Derry City and Strabane District Council for Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to release a Londonderry republican from prison has been slammed by DUP Foyle candidate Gary Middleton.

A majority of councillors voted to support a motion from Independent councillor Gary Donnelly calling for Tony Taylor, who was arrested at his home in Creggan last month, to be freed.

Taylor was sentenced to 18 years' jail in 1994 for planting a bomb in Derry but was released on licence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He was jailed for another three years in 2011 after being found guilty of possessing a rifle.

Mr Donnelly was supported by Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors, with opposition from the unionist bloc.

Mr Middleton said the matter should never have been allowed to come before the council.

"This is an individual who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1998 before being released under the Belfast Agreement," the DUP candidate added.

"In 2011, he was then sentenced to three years for possession of a rifle.

"There is little doubt that Mr Taylor is a dangerous individual.

"DUP colleagues made it absolutely clear that this issue should never have been brought to the council in the first place.

"People may have thought that parties who have made comments about crossing wires with the justice system would have supported our position, but they instead chose to back this latest motion in favour of a dissident republican terrorist.

"There is a disturbing pattern to these council motions. In Dungannon, some time ago, councillors voted in support of releasing Gerry McGeough while one of his victims, and my party colleague, Sammy Brush was sitting across the chamber from them.

"Fermanagh District Council also voted in favour of the release of Marian Price.

"While lecturing others, it is clear that republicans and nationalists are happy to indulge in an a la carte approach to justice."

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney, who supported the motion, said the only person taking an a la carte attitude to justice was the Secretary of State.

He explained: "I had actually proposed an amendment to Gary Donnelly's motion which called on the Secretary of State to explain her reasons for Tony Taylor's arrest because we did not want to let her off the hook.

"This motion is about human rights and it is not about Tony Taylor personally.

"It is about the ability to arrest a person without providing evidence of why that person was arrested or an explanation of how he has broken the terms of his release under the Good Friday Agreement.

"Theresa Villiers has not provided one shred of evidence that Tony Taylor has broken the terms of his release under the Good Friday Agreement.

"I and everyone else in the SDLP believe in the police system, but we have the right to call into question that system when we see cases of human rights being violated, and Tony Taylor's human rights are being violated."

Belfast Telegraph