Council calls for immediate release of republican Tony Taylor

Tony Taylor, Republican Network for Unity (RNU) spokesperson. 2509JM05
Tony Taylor, Republican Network for Unity (RNU) spokesperson. 2509JM05

Derry & Strabane Council have called for Secretary of State Theresa Villiers to release a top republican from prison, stating that his license has been revoked for no reason.

A majority of councillors backed a motion tabled by independent republican Councillor Gary Donnelly at Monday’s meeting of the full council sitting at the Guildhall.

The protesters outside the Guildhall calling for the immediate release of local man Tony Taylor.

The protesters outside the Guildhall calling for the immediate release of local man Tony Taylor.

Dozens of people lined the front of the Guildhall in a protest organised against Tony Taylor’s incarceration prior to the meeting.

Taylor was arrested at his home in Londonderry last month and taken to Maghaberry Prison.

The 48-year-old, who is a member of the ard chomhairle of the Republican Network for Unity group, was released from Maghaberry Prison in 2014 after serving a three year sentence for possessing a rifle.

Back in 1994, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison after he was seriously injured in a premature explosion in Derry. He was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In the council chamber on Monday, Colr. Donnelly stated that Ms Villiers “in conjunction with unaccountable intelligence agencies has ordered the incarceration of Derry Republican Tony Taylor without charge or trial”.

His motion urged that “this Council calls for Tony’s immediate release.”

Speaking to his motion, Colr Donnelly said: “The arrest of Tony Taylor is a disgrace. The British system here is farcical. It is not designed to administer justice.

“Tony was arrested without any shred of evidence being put before anyone.”

Colr. Donnelly said there was no objective evidence of any breach of license, and said it was even admitted by Teresa Villiers herself that the revocation was outside normal justice practice.

“We have to ask the question: who’s agenda is being pursued here?” Colr. Donnelly said.

“His imprisonment should be a matter of concern for all those with an interest in human rights,” he said.

Sinn Fein Councillor Kevin said his party “fully support the motion”.

“The continued use of unjust powers by the British government is an affront to human rights and natural justice and makes a mockery of the judicial process,” Colr. Campbell said.

He added that if there was any alleged evidence Tony Taylor was a risk to the public that needed to put before him and his legal team so they can challenge it.

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney had proposed an amendment to the motion calling on Teresa Villiers to explain why Tony Taylor’s prison license was revoked and in the absence of any wrong doing call for his immediate release.”

Colr. Tierney said that having the ability to arrive at someone’s home and take them into prison without explanation or evidence was an abuse of the most basic human rights.

Speaking to the amendment, DUP Councillor Graham Warke however listed Mr Taylor’s previous sentences, adding: “The DUP feel that this motion should never have been brought into this council in the first place.”

A vote was taken on Colr. Tierney’s amendment with nine councillors in favour of it to 27 against.

The original motion by Colr. Donnelly was however passed by 28 Councillors in favour to eight against.