Sinn Fein ‘hypocritical’ over Tony Taylor support: DUP MLA

Released prisoner Tony Taylor had his licence revoked by then NI secretary Theresa Villiers in 2016
Released prisoner Tony Taylor had his licence revoked by then NI secretary Theresa Villiers in 2016

Sinn Fein’s calls for the release of Londonderry republican Tony Taylor were hypocritical – and in stark contrast to the “traitors” remarks made by the party’s former deputy leader Martin McGuinness, a DUP MLA has said.

Gary Middleton said the decision to release Mr Taylor was a matter for the Parole Board, but took issue with Sinn Fein talking up peace and reconciliation while at the same time “happy to laud and applaud” anti-peace process elements.

Mr Taylor was jailed in 1994 after being involved in a premature bomb explosion, but freed on licence under the terms of the Belfast Agreement in 1998.

He was then convicted in 2014 of possessing a rifle and sentenced to three years in prison, with a further four on licence, but released as he had served the equivalent of that sentence on remand.

He was again detained in 2016 when then secretary of state Theresa Villiers revoked his licence.

In August, Sinn Fein councillor Sandra Duffy called for his immediate release.

She added: “Sinn Fein will continue to raise this matter with both the Irish and British governments until Tony Taylor is released.”

The previous month, her party colleague Raymond McCartney said: “Tony Taylor’s continued detention is wrong and a clear violation of his human rights.”

In March 2009, the late Martin McGuinness branded the anti-peace process republicans “traitors to Ireland”.

Yesterday, Mr Middleton accused Sinn Fein of “hypocrisy,” and said it would be “more constructive if we could all take a stand together against dissidents”.

Mr Middleton added: “It is not so long ago the late deputy first minister Martin McGuinness was calling dissident republicans traitors.

“On the one hand Sinn Fein are saying that they are now a peaceful movement and the mainstream voice of republicanism, but on the other hand they are quite happy to laud and applaud convicted criminals who have always been anti-peace process. Either you say ‘welcome home’ or you say these individuals are traitors. It can’t be both.”

A message posted on the Free Tony Taylor Facebook page on Tuesday said his wife Lorraine and family were “thrilled” that he would be home in time for Christmas.

Sinn Fein has not yet responded to a request for comment.