MOYLE District Council is to send a letter to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson calling for the immediate release of a former IRA man convicted on explosives charges more than three decades ago.
The motion was put forward by Independent Glens councillor Colum Thompson at a meeting of the council last week.
Belfast woman Roisin Lynch held a four-day hunger strike along with supporters last month to highlight the plight of her partner Brendan Lillis who is seriously ill. He was convicted of possessing explosives over 30 years ago.
The west Belfast man is currently being treated in the hospital wing of Maghaberry prison for Ankylosing Spondylitis, a type of arthritis that affects the spine.
The 59-year-old’s partner says the former IRA man has been confined to bed for almost two years and has been given just days to live by doctors.
Mr Lillis 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 arrest on unrelated charges in 2009 he was told he would have to serve the rest of his original life sentence.
All new charges against Mr Lillis, who weighs just five stone, were shelved last year because he was deemed too unwell to stand trial.
Ms Lynch says she was told that parole commissioners, who met with Mr Lillis last week, have decided he should remain behind bars.
She said: “They have turned him down for release because they believe he still poses a danger to the public. They’ll now look at the wider picture, the medical aspect of his case. He’s devastated, he just can’t take it.”
Cllr Thompson told Moyle council the continued “incarceration of Brendan Lillis is a denial of his human rights”.
UUP councillor Willie Graham said: “Why should it be of importance to a councillor in the Glens?”
Cllr Thompson replied: “Everyone in the world’s human rights are important to me.”
DUP member Robert McIlroy said: “I don’t think Moyle District Council should be getting involved.”
UUP councillor Joan Baird said: “The first night I was here I wanted a letter put into the local Fire Service. I was told the policy in the council was not to write letters.
“Surely that policy should apply here.”
Independent Chairman of the council, Padraig McShane, said the proposed letter “had different connotations”, and seconded Cllr Thompson’s proposal.
Sinn Fein’s Cara McShane said: “This is a human rights case.
“There is absolutely no reason why he continues to be imprisoned when there are no charges to answer.”
A vote was taken in council on the issue with six councillors for the motion and four against.
“A nationalist council again,” said Cllr Graham.
“This is nothing to do with nationalist or unionist, it is humanitarian,” replied Cllr Thompson.