Let Brendan Lillis go home
looks at the case of Brendan Lillis, a former member of the Irish Republican Army, who the British government is allowing to die in prison.
BRENDAN LILLIS, a political prisoner in Northern Ireland's Maghaberry Prison, could die in less than 10 days. He suffers from ankylosing spondylitis a bone disease which causes fused bones and severe curvature of the spine.
His partner, Roisin Lynch, told The Irish News, "Brendan will never walk again. We don't know how much time he has left, but at the minute, we're talking about days, not weeks or months...He is a sick man who is no risk to anyone, and yet he remains locked up, with his condition deteriorating daily."
Brendan Lillis has been bedridden for over 600 days. He gets 60 pills a day. Roisin Lynch says, "My partner is starving to death. He has a feeding tube in. He's can't talk. He's going blind."
She compared what she is going through to someone with a loved one with terminal cancer on the WBAI radio program Radio Free Eireann: "You just want to hold them. You just want to stroke their hair and feed them wee cups of tea. But every time I leave Brendan's cell, I know I may never see him alive again."
She said, "Brendan has grandchildren he has never met. Let him come home even if it's just to meet them before he dies."
Send an e-mail to David Ford, the Northern Ireland Minister for Justice, protesting the continued incarceration of Brendan Lillis. Roisin Lynch says Ford is "allowing a critically ill man to die alone locked in a cell in inhumane conditions."
Brendan Lillis was a member of the IRA and served 16 years of a life sentence in the notorious Long Kesh prison where 10 men died on hunger strike in 1980. He was "on the blanket" for four years, wearing nothing but a blanket because he refused to put on a British prison uniform.
He was released on "license" (parole) in 1992. In 2009, he was arrested on a robbery charge. His license was immediately revoked, and his life sentence restored.
Lillis was already so sick that he could only go to court on a stretcher. The charges were dismissed because he was too ill to stand trial. But he is still serving his original life sentence.
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ROISIN LYNCH describes how Brendan collapsed on the floor of his cell and couldn't move. Other prisoners found him lying in his own waste. They put him on the bed, washed him and cared for him. Eventually, they were able to get the guards to move him to the prison hospital.
Lynch says she still didn't know what was happening with her partner: "He couldn't make phone calls as his condition was so bad he could not physically lift the phone. During that time I could not get a hold of a prison doctor to find out how Brendan was--one day I rang 37 times and no one was available to talk to me"
Today, Brendan Lillis is being held prisoner by the British government, which could release him at any time.
Anthony McIntire, who knew him in Long Kesh, wrote in his blog "The Pensive Quill": "This former blanket protester will emerge from prison one way or the other. The British government knows it cannot hold onto him for much longer. But it seems confident it can hold onto him until such times as his case becomes the legal remit of the coroner. This is vindictive and born of mean spirit."
Roisin Lynch and a group of Brendan Lillis' supporters are holding a three-day hunger strike in Belfast to demand that he be freed. There will be simultaneous hunger strikes in Scotland and in cities throughout Ireland. She told The Irish News, "My hunger strike is a peaceful humanitarian protest aimed at drawing public attention to Brendan's plight before it is too late, and I'm bringing him home in a coffin."
Pressure from the U.S. could help set Brendan Lillis free before it is too late. The British government has often been sensitive to U.S. protests.