Eastwood challenged by DUP MP over Tony Taylor support

Londonderry republican Tony Taylor
Londonderry republican Tony Taylor

Colum Eastwood should focus on the crimes of Maghaberry inmate Tony Taylor rather than call for the release of the convicted terrorist, DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said.

SDLP leader Mr Eastwood visited the Londonderry republican in prison yesterday and afterwards accused authorities of providing “no credible evidence to support Mr Taylor’s continued detention”.

Taylor was handed an 18-year prison sentence for Provisional IRA terror offences in 1994 but was released on licence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2011 he was sentenced to a further three years on firearms charges then, in March 2016, he was arrested and returned to Maghaberry having been assessed as posing a risk to the public.

After visiting Taylor yesterday, Mr Eastwood said: “I am again calling on the secretary of state to intervene. Either evidence should be presented in this case or Mr Taylor must be released.

“To date, authorities have provided no credible evidence to support Mr Taylor’s continued detention. If any such evidence exists, it should be presented in open court and Mr Taylor given the right to defend himself. The fact that this has not yet happened is deeply worrying.”

Mr Eastwood added: “We have built a society here that respects the principle of the rule of law. That principle applies as much to the state as it does to individuals. No purpose is served through the actions taken against Mr Taylor to date.”

However, East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell said no one should forget that Taylor is a convicted terrorist, “therefore, no one should try to infer that this is an innocent man being held for no reason”.

Mr Campbell added: “I would have thought Colum Eastwood would be better establishing from the police what their concerns are, and what the breach of the licence was ... before trying to lecture people.

“It needs repeating each and every time anyone mentions the Tony Taylor case, Tony Taylor is a convicted terrorist – not once, but twice – and on each of the two occasions it was exceptionally serious charges that he was convicted on.

“And when he was eventually released, after his second conviction, he was, as so many are, released on licence and Colum Eastwood ought to be aware that the terms of the licence, if they are breached, can mean that you are returned to serve the remainder of your prison sentence in prison.”