David Ford: “as minister my decision has to be bound by the best professional advice I can be given.”

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Having met with various interested parties, and despite the advice from Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has rejected calls to free former Provisional IRA member Brendan Lillis on compassionate grounds.  From the BBC report

Mr Ford said he had taken “an active interest” in the case and had sought additional independent medical advice.

However, he said while it was within his power to free Mr Lillis, he had been advised that there were not sufficient grounds for compassionate release.

“There have only been two cases in the last decade where those exceptional circumstances have been satisfied,” he added.

“One prisoner was terminally ill and died shortly after release. The other had medical needs which could not be met in the prison hospital and was transferred to an outside hospital.

“Neither of those circumstances have been put to me by the people who advice me. And therefore as minister my decision has to be bound by the best professional advice I can be given.”

A UTV report adds

Mr Ford has said he is looking into the matter but has not been advised it is necessary at this point to release Mr Lillis.

“I have not been advised by those who are responsible for professionally advising me that there is any particular urgency, but I am keeping the matter under review”, Mr Ford told UTV.

“I have asked for reports, I have asked for a meeting so I am certainly treating it as a significant issue, but I have not been given any persuasive evidence at this stage that there are grounds for urgent compassionate release”, he added.

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  • ranger1640

    A quote from the BBC NI web site.

    “The justice minister has rejected calls for the release of a sick republican”

    I didn’t know the BBC had it in them to call republicans “sick”!!!! I’m astonished they did not use the prefix seriously or critically, before they used “sick” and I’m even more astonished they did not use the word ill???? And where did David Ford get the set of swingers from??? One less on wee Marty’s Christmas card list me thinks!!!!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14399190

  • ranger1640

    I wonder did Lillis, watch the film I Love You Phillip Morris, and take one of the ideas in that film to gaol with him?

    The sequel, I love you Brendan Lillis; staring Martin McGuinness, sort of has a nice ring to it.

  • Dec
  • Into the west

    ranger,

    “Lets troll again last we did last summer
    lets troll again like we did last year.”

  • Turgon

    Whilst Ford has said he is not going to release Mr. Lillis I wonder if he could be leaving himself some wriggle room to change his position at a later date. There are comments like: “at this point; I am keeping the matter under review; at this stage “

    Now clearly an issue such as a No to compassionate release is not a necessarily a final once and for all decision. It might be appropriate to return to the issue should there be major changes.

    However, the statements from Ford could be intrepreted as code for “I am not going to release him now but will later after a suitable amount of time has passed and allowing me to claim Mr. Lillis’s health has worsened.”

    Such an out come (perish the thought that Ford could be cynical) might allow Ford to claim to be tough and yet get Mr. McGuinness’s friend out quickly enough to avoid Mr. Ford from antagonising the man to whom he owes his job.

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    The impression at some points of the media is that Mr Lillis is being held on remand, but elsewhere he is back in prison because his licence has been revoked – though he may well be waiting on other charges being heard?

    Confused as to why he is alleged to be on deathbed as his basic condition is incurable, but not fatal unless someone from the medical world can cast further light on the matter http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Ankylosing-spondylitis/Pages/Introduction.aspx

  • Dec

    Despite not being considered fit to stand trial, he’s apparently fit enough to be locked up indefinitely. I wonder if David Ford considered that when he was trawling through the archives for precedent.

  • Reader

    Dec: Despite not being considered fit to stand trial, he’s apparently fit enough to be locked up indefinitely.
    Have you seen the courtroom pictures of Mubarak? Where is he on the spectrum?

  • hodgie

    ford is doing a pontius pilot routine: nothing is his fault, responsibility or call – all decisions are in the hands of anonymous bureaucrats whom he calls advisers and commissioners, and he is powerless to actually do anything himself. despite the fact that he is the justice minister!

    if a justice minister can’t act, what’s the purpose of having one?

  • tomthumbuk

    And so a new medical syndrome has been born. Anorexia Residivistia.
    Anyhow it’s worth a try, it worked OK for the Price sisters!

  • Toastedpuffin

    Irish Republicans do seem to suffer from particularly poor health

    http://www.u.tv/News/Explosives-in-dissident-accuseds-car/401a999d-0699-4ead-be85-53f271a4c93e

    Maybe health resorts should include a course in Unionism…

  • http://www.jonnymccormick.wordpress.com jonnymccormick

    I think David Ford is acting responsibly and justly – which, once again proves he is the right choice to be the Justice Minister in NI.

  • Dearbhla

    Some of the above responses make me wonder where human decency has gone. Brendy Lillis is very ill, he poses no threat to anyone. For information, while his condition itself may not be fatal the fact that he has received no proper medical treatment has exacerbated the condition and the fear is that he may have a fatal heart attack or develop pneumonia. Bottom line is that it is a humanitarian issue and he should be released end of. Silly cracks about anorexia etc are just a sign of very tiny minds who can think of nothing better to do than attack people in no position to defend themselves.

  • Clanky

    I think the Belfast Telegraph says it all.

    Unforunately Sinn Fein may have done mr. Lillis’ case more harm than good by coming out in such vocal support and thus putting more pressure on david Ford not to be seen to bow to pressure from Republicans.

    Some things are more important than political point scoring and the humane treatment of an ill human being, no matter what his past crimes are, should be one of them.

    Can there be any doubt that if Lillis had not been in jail for sectarian, and therefore politically sensitive, reasons that he would have been released?

    Having noted the positions of the various political parties on the matter it would be interesting to see where they stand if a similar case involving a loyalist paramilitary ever happens, I can honestlyu say that I would be in favour of release regardless of which particular bunch of isiots the person in question had been involved with, could Martin McGuiness say the same?

  • Reader

    Dearbhla: the fact that he has received no proper medical treatment
    Who says? A relative? A GP? A specialist?

  • Dec

    Reader

    ‘Have you seen the courtroom pictures of Mubarak? Where is he on the spectrum?’

    And I give you whataboutery on a GLOBAL scale, people!

  • ranger1640

    Ford on BBC NI Radio Ulster’s morning programme, said that he (David Ford)was not letting Lillis out. This was based on the clinical information he was receiving.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail madraj55

    After feeling the heat, Ford was er…… clarifying his position by the evening news time.That now he was keeping it under review. That fence must be getting uncomfortable to sit on by now.

  • http://jamember.blogspot.com Procrasnow

    No one here in this jurisdiction heard of the term ‘video link’

    or why does he not just enter a plea bargain, he pleads guilty, and his sentence is made to be time already served, they can let him go home to his ‘partner’.

    if he is not guilty have the hearing by video link, and he can then be acquitted or found guilty and sentenced as above.

  • CharlieMcCarthy29

    Procrasnow,

    Is that the way it would happen? I thought he was in jail, not on remand, but because his licence was revoked.

  • Reader

    Dec: And I give you whataboutery on a GLOBAL scale, people!
    Mubarak is looking pretty ill, wouldn’t you agree? Call Amnesty, call Marty!

  • http://ardoynerepublican.blogspot.com/ ArdEoin Republican

    As a former Political Prisoner, I can assure anyone the Prison Hospital that Brendan Lillis is being held in is nothing more than a double prison cell. The ‘hospital’ is nothing more than a glorified medical wing that any Irish citizen can visit when they visit their GP.

    So not only has David (Thatcher) Ford ignored BL’s plight, he is also telling blatant lies to the public about his medical treatment!

    The USA has some of the best hospitals in the world but whenever one its prisoners needs medical attention, they bring him/her to an outside hospital. What makes Ford believe that Maghaberry Gaol has better medical facilities than America?

  • tomthumbuk

    It’s a bit like Bobby Sands. But he called it a hunger strike.
    Let’s get real.

  • http://ardoynerepublican.blogspot.com/ ArdEoin Republican

    Tom Thumb, don’t know what UR post was meant to mean and I dare say no-one else does?

    But sure, so long as U do it’s alright?

    Throw Bobby Sands’ name in there and all the bigots will agree wth me lol…

    The reality is that Bobby Sands, his sacrifice and his memory will outlive much, much longer than the British occupation has!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon:

    Whilst Ford has said he is not going to release Mr. Lillis I wonder if he could be leaving himself some wriggle room to change his position at a later date.

    He absolutely is, and he more or less said as much on the Nolan show this morning. The reason why Lillis hasn’t been released is because there is no professional advice that he should be.

    Such an out come (perish the thought that Ford could be cynical) might allow Ford to claim to be tough

    Ford didn’t come across that way this morning. My interpretation of his words this morning was that Lillis would be released if a medical professional were to go on record with the view that his medical condition was worsening as a consequence of his treatment in prison. A number of doctors have visited Lillis lately and so far, apparently, none of them have apparently come forward to do this.

    and yet get Mr. McGuinness’s friend out quickly enough to avoid Mr. Ford from antagonising the man to whom he owes his job.

    The justice minister job is Ford’s for as long as the DUP and SF fail to agree on a better candidate. Ford has the rather enviable luxury of being able to antagonize whomever he wants, if he so wished.

    madraj:

    After feeling the heat, Ford was er…… clarifying his position by the evening news time.That now he was keeping it under review. That fence must be getting uncomfortable to sit on by now.

    Re-listen to the Nolan show, just before 10AM. Ford said that he had invited the lawyers and family of Lillis to make a case for compassionate release, and that he would review his position if the medical advice changed. I don’t think Ford’s position has changed at all since this matter kicked off.

    hodgie:

    if a justice minister can’t act, what’s the purpose of having one?

    OK, let’s do this again. Executive powers for dummies.

    The justice minister is not a lawyer, a police officer or (in this case) a physician.

    The education minister is not a schoolteacher.

    The sports minister is not a sporting professional.

    The agriculture minister is not a farmer.

    The DRD minister is not a civil engineer.

    The DSD minister is not a social worker.

    The health minister is not a doctor.

    No minister is an expert in their field. It helps a lot of they have an interest in the job and that they are able to grasp the nuances. But fundamentally, they rely on the advice they receive which comes either from the civil servants they employ, expert advisors (such as doctors) they bring in or commission to produce reports. The minister’s job is to find the right people to advise him/her and the make a decision on the advice received. The minister also (crucially) is responsible for those decisions and is the person held to account if/when they go wrong. So it’s not supposed to be just a case of rubber stamping things.

    If Ford (or any other minister) acts without properly considering the expert evidence that has been presented, he/she is open to all kinds of legal problems, most seriously to a judicial review where his decision can be overturned. That sort of thing is bad for the credibility of the office.

    If you understand that, then you will understand why Ford can’t simply order that the man be released. All Ford can do is ensure that the processes are followed and the relatives and lawyers are given all the space they need to make the case for Lillis’ release. In this case, they have not done so. Ford has taken what seems to me like an unusual step and asked for a second medical report on Lillis’ condition. The purpose of doing this is so that it is clear whether or not the professional medical opinion supports the view that Lillis’ condition is worsening as a result of being in prison.

    Procrasnow :

    or why does he not just enter a plea bargain, he pleads guilty, and his sentence is made to be time already served, they can let him go home to his ‘partner’.

    Lillis was released on license. That means he is allowed to serve his remaining jail term outside of prison on the condition that he doesn’t get in trouble. Despite being aware of this, he managed to get himself arrested, and that is grounds for the revocation of his license. There is no trial involved, he is simply returned to jail to continue serving his existing conviction there.

    Dearbhla:

    Some of the above responses make me wonder where human decency has gone. Brendy Lillis is very ill, he poses no threat to anyone.

    There is no professional medical testimony that Lillis is “very ill” to the extent that justifies compassionate release. The question of whether or not he poses a threat to anyone is irrelevant, he has to serve his time.

    For information, while his condition itself may not be fatal the fact that he has received no proper medical treatment

    On what basis do you make this claim ?

    has exacerbated the condition

    Which of the several doctors who visited Lillis have reported this, and why haven’t they told the justice minister ?

  • HeinzGuderian

    As a former Hungry Striker,(failed),I can tell you now,the cod and chips on a Friday was hard to refuse !!
    Maybe he should have thought about his condition,before going out to commit a crime ?

    By the fish supper,I fully agree with the undying memory of Johnny Sands,I have named my Chip Shop after him !! ;-)

  • tomthumbuk

    Tom Thumb, don’t know what UR post was meant to mean and I dare say no-one else does?

    Quick explanation, I think he’s swinging the lead!

    Here’s your starter clue for ten, think “Price sisters.”

    In the words of Pete Townsend, “won’t get fooled again!”

  • http://amanfrommars.blogspot.com/ amanfromMars

    On another matter which may be of interest and have need of critical and criminal investigation, which ministers are responsible for the purchase of Ormiston House …… http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14393083 ….with a view I suppose of making a tidy private speculative property development profit …. with funds from the public purse.

    Is that sort of speculative market gambling with public money normal in public office, with profits personalised and losses nationalised, and therefore all personal risk to the gamblers removed? Methinks such business, although very attractive, would be abuse and criminal?

    Why did the Assembly buy a white elephant from the Police Authority in the first place? …… “The assembly bought the property in 2001 for £9m from the Police Authority, the predecessor of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.” Who profited from the sale and who knew who well enough to be scratching each others’ backs in the Assembly and Police Authority at the time?

  • Comrade Stalin

    tomthumb,

    I’d agree that this is really just a propaganda effort by dissident republicans, and I will continue to believe that until someone with professional medical standing goes on record to request that Lillis to be moved to a hospital.

  • michael-mcivor

    Well i would not have taken the word of the nazi doctors in their camps- get Brendan Lillis to a proper hospital- then we will know the truth-

  • Comrade Stalin

    Well i would not have taken the word of the nazi doctors in their camps- get Brendan Lillis to a proper hospital- then we will know the truth-

    The medical assistance at the prison is provided in conjunction with Altnagelvin hospital, several doctors not attached to the prison have seen Lillis. But you knew all that before you shot your mouth off, right ?

  • ranger1640

    Ancient Order of Hibernians National President, Seamus Boyle, has called for the release of Brendan Lillis, a prisoner with severe health problems who is being held in Northern Ireland’s Maghaberry Prison.

    “Brendan Lillis is an Irish political prisoner and a sick man who is a threat to no one. The reason he is not being released on humanitarian grounds is because is that he is being used as a political ploy by the crown forces to keep the republican movement on their back foot,” said Boyle in a strongly worded statement.

    Added Boyle: “Why not go back less than a hundred years to 1916, strap him in a chair, and shoot him like James Connolly. That is the way the crown treats their enemies.
    “The Good Friday Agreement was to bring peace and justice to all of Ireland but it seems that one side is doing all the work when both sides of the divide will be needed to end the conflict. Could it be that there are still those who do not want to see justice served?
    “It is time the Irish, British governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland find the guts to say enough is enough. Release Brendan now before they have another disaster like we had thirty years ago when we lost ten heroes. For God’s sake, wake up, this a human being suffering and who will definitely die if action is not taken immediately. Animals are cared for better than Brendan is being treated.”
    Boyle, who is originally from County Armagh, but who has lived for many years in Philadelphia, said that Irish America was watching and waiting for the right thing to be done.
    “The AOH will not stand idly by and see this injustice. This man is being paraded as a threat to society. For God’s sake he weighs less than 100 pounds, who is he a threat to? Release Brendan Immediately so he can receive proper medical attention and live at peace with his family,” Boyle said.
    Separately, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, called this week on North justice minister David Ford to release Lillis, who suffers from a severe arthritic condition.
    “There can be no doubt that Brendan Lillis is seriously ill and does not represent a threat to anyone,” McGuinness said.
    “The decision of the British Secretary of State Owen Paterson to revoke the license of Brendan Lillis is reminiscent of internment without trial,” he added.Lillis was sentenced to life in 1977 on explosives charges but was released on license in 1993. This was revoked in 2009 after he was re-arrested. Lillis was told that he was “a danger to the public” and was further told that he would have to serve the rest of his original life sentence in Maghaberry.

    Strange position for the AoH to take asking for a criminal to be released form gaol and trying to claim it is political.

    The AoH have a track record taking extreme views. It takes an ultra conservative roman catholic view on members of the gay and lesbian community. By refusing the gay and lesbian community from taking part in the AoH organized New York St. Patrick’s parade, and refusing to expel IRA gunman Gerry McGeough.

  • Alias

    I think those organisations are becoming more liberal, Ranger. As President Obama pointed out in his speech on Dublin’s College Green, they did allow him as an aspiring black politician to march in a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Chicago – albeit at the back of the parade just before the garbage trucks…

  • Comrade Stalin

    I was curious about one thing. David Ford in his Nolan interview referred to a visit by a psychiatrist. In a recent press release, the family said that a doctor named Sean O Domhnaill had said that Lillis was dying. I thought it was curious that the family would ask a psychiatrist to visit Lillis, despite there being no suggestions that Lillis’ mental health is in question.

    Doing a quick Google for Dr O Domhnaill turns up a few interesting results. It would seem that the good Doctor has a sideline in being involved in political matters, and spends rather little of his time being an actual medical practitioner. I always feel reassured when someone turns up at a political meeting and pointedly lists their medical qualifications after his name. We all know that people with degrees, especially doctorates, are intensely intelligent individuals who can comment on any matter either inside or outside of their expert field and be less likely to bias or error than any other randomer. So I kept searching.

    The first result that comes up shows him defending an argument made alleging a link between abortion and breast cancer. I’m sure the doctor considered all of the relevant facts and did not feel tempted to draw any conclusions from causality. On a related note, we find that his name comes up in connection with the Irish Catholic Doctors Association (love the big picture of the Vatican, reminded me so much of the Auld Sod). Given that I’m not a doctor myself I have no doubt, of course, that Dr O Domhnaill carefully weighs up difficult matters of religious faith with the best available scientific evidence in line with his medical training.

    In the next link up, he has lent his name to a petition urging the Iranian government to retain the street named after Bobby Sands. The petition, addressed to “his excellency” – I’m sure that is a mode of address which is compatible with the appropriate republican principles – notes among other things that “The British government has no right to be in Ireland, just as it has no right to be interfering in the affairs of any other nation. ” – a strange argument to make given that a significant number of the signatories have also signed the Good Friday Agreement which repudiates this notion. I’m sure, however, that as a qualified psychiatrist, Dr Sean wouldn’t be the kind of person who would allow his impassioned political beliefs to interfere with sound medical judgement based on the observations.

    Further down, we find that he opposed the creation of a government body regulating the medical profession in Ireland on the basis that this arrangement went wrong whenever the Nazis and the Soviets did the same thing. The article reports that when the doctor made this allegation he “lost the audience”. I’m sure if the audience were aware, as I am, of the good Doctor’s impeccable medical credentials and his well established commitment to evidence and fact, rather than hyperbole, they might have felt encouraged to listen more carefully to what the doctor had to say.

    In conclusion, Brendan Lillis must surely be reassured to know that his family and friends are avoiding propaganda and that they are securing medical opinion from the best available qualified medical practitioners to make their case. It is good thing that he enjoys the support of a circle of family and friends who cherish his good health, and in line with the traditions of Irish Republicanism wouldn’t try to use his predicament for political purposes.

  • Toastedpuffin

    CS:

    Possibly Dr O Domhnaill’s claim that Lillis is “dying” relates to his Freudian psychiatric stance that all organic life has an urge towards lifeless matter and instinctively seeks its own death.

    Or perhaps he was yielding to the truism that from our very conception, we are dying. Either way, he is what is commonly referred to in academia as “some pup”..

  • Lionel Hutz
  • Lionel Hutz

    http://www.u.tv/News/Republican-prisoner-moved-to-hospital/899a00d2-f284-4534-919e-a2083bc840a4

    Family spokesperson Gerard Hodgins claimed the decision to move him was taken following a visit from Lillis’ wife Roisin.

    “Roisin visited Brendan Lillis (on Tuesday) and after five minutes the visit was stopped and a doctor declared Brendan to be critical and in need of removal to hospital.

    “Roisin was not notified when he would be moved or to where he would be moved and she left the visit in a distressed state.

    “We have been highlighting the critical nature of Brendan’s condition for a long time and while we are pleased that he is to at last receive appropriate treatment, the delay in making this move does nothing to instill confidence in the justice system in the North of Ireland.”

    Also:

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0809/lillisb.html

    “Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice confirmed this evening that a 59-year-old prisoner is to be transferred from Maghaberry Prison to hospital for medical assessment. “

  • lamhdearg

    The family of a republican life sentence prisoner say he is being moved from prison to a hospital.
    Brendan Lillis suffers from a severe form of arthritis and his family have campaigned for his release on compassionate grounds.
    The Prison Service confirmed that a doctor has recommended Mr Lillis is moved to an outside hospital for assessment.
    black hummor but sadly true
    if mr lillis contracts mrsa, will irish nats claim he was bugged by the brits.

  • Comrade Stalin

    lamhdearg, this is on the advice of a doctor, it would be utterly wrong and inhumane of the Department to do anything less than fully and speedily implement the Department’s recommendations.

  • Comrade Stalin

    (I mean, fully implement the doctor’s recommendations)

  • anne warren

    Apart from Lamh Dearg’s black humour I can understand his concern about mrsa, voiced here and on other threads. It is a dreadful, fatal infection according to a friend of mine whose elderly Shankill Road father contracted the disease in hospital in NI and suffered terribly until his death a few months later.
    As far as regards Mr Brendan Lillis’s transfer I think we can all be happy he is receiving adequate care in a specialist hospital unit as every very sick prisoner is entitled to and should be given. I am confident we all hope medical and nursing staff will manage to ensure his recovery and he will be returned to wherever he is destined to go.
    However it appears there is still a lot to sort out. As we are all aware after his arrest the British Secretary of State withdrew his licence which reactivated his life sentence. This in turn engages a number of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 5 Right to Liberty and Security, specifically the duty the state owes to inform the detainee of the reason for their detention, and Article 6 the Right to a Fair Trial in that the detainee has the right to a fair and public hearing for the determination of the detainee’s civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him.
    Since the robbery related charge he was accused of is no longer to be proceeded with, this triggers further analysis into the reasoning and legality of his detention

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    MRSA is a deadly infection. I may be wrong but I think it enters the body through surgery wounds. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

  • anne warren

    Mr Brendan Lillis has been freed.

    Prisoner Lillis to be released
    Republican remand prisoner Brendan Lillis, who was moved from Maghaberry jail to an outside hospital earlier this month, has now been freed.

    http://www.u.tv/news