Questions remain over Lillis release

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Given the high-profile campaigning on the case, the Northern Ireland Parole Commissioners’ uncommon statement about their apparent u-turn in re-releasing on licence former Provisional IRA member, Brendan Lillis, fails to address concerns of political interference in that process.  Here’s what the commissioners are reported to have said

In a statement they said: “The Parole Commissioners have been tasked with making decisions about prisoners according to established procedures.

“All decisions made by commissioners comply rigorously with these procedures and they have not departed from them in respect of decisions made about Brendan Lillis.”

Similarly, the NI Justice Minister, David Ford, doesn’t appear to have addressed that u-turn either.

“It has been reported that charges against Mr Lillis have been dropped. That is not the case, they are still on the books,” the [NI] justice minister [David Ford] told Radio Ulster.

“The decision that was taken by the Court Service this year was that he was not fit to stand trial which was of course an entirely different issue as to whether he would be fit to be treated in the prison hospital.

“As I understand it the matter is being kept under review and it will be possible if his medical condition improved that he would be returned for trial on the charges which he faces from his alleged activities two years ago.”

Which is good to know.  But which “medical condition”?  His arthritic condition, ankylosing spondylitis?  Or his reported anorexia?

If Lillis is to be released from hospital at some point in the future, the Minister’s statement will be tested by whether or not he is re-arrested. 

But the concerns about the decision to re-release Brendan Lillis on licence certainly haven’t been helped by Lillis’ readiness to speak to the media about that decision – he can be heard, for now, at the start of this Radio Ulster News bulletin on 19th August.

The NI Justice Minister has a responsibility to explain why the Paroles Commissioners have reversed the advice they gave to him at the end of July.  [The Life Sentence Review Commission was renamed the Parole Commission in 2008].  Merely stating that the advice has changed is not sufficient.

After all, as David Ford pointed out on 4th August

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.”

Update  From the BBC report

[DUP MLA Paul] Givan said the commissioners denied their decision was taken on compassionate grounds but was instead based upon public interest with regards to the level of risk that was posed to society.

“At the beginning of August the justice minister outlined the only two reasons for a compassionate release, which are terminal illness and the inability to meet medical needs in prison,” he said.

“Neither of those two issues relate to Mr Lillis’ case, and the Parole Commission made it clear today that the decision to release Brendan Lillis was made on the perceived risk to the public.”

So, even after the independent medical assessment, Brendan Lillis continued to fail to meet the established criteria for release on compassionate grounds – severe ill health or a lack of appropriate medical treatment.  And the NI Parole Commissioners then decide that the basis for revoking his licence in the first place no longer applies, despite the charges against him still standing?

How very convenient…

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  • Turgon

    Pete,
    If there has been new medical evidence / a new medical opinion that Lillis should be released then that may be fair enough.

    The problem seems to be that the if above is a very big if. As Ford suggested decisions to release etc. on compassionate grounds are very rare.

    The Al-Meghari case is relevant here but for a slightly different reason than people usually think. In Al-Meghari’s case there were medical opinions that he would die soon after release and that was the context for the compassionate release. The medical opinions to that effect were publicly stated.

    If Lillis has also been released on medical grounds then that medical evidence should be released. Not only that evidence but also the previous opinions and the reasons if any for the change in positions.

    If he then does remarkably better than the medical opinion stated then that can be looked at later.

    At the moment, however, we have a situation where we do not even know why this U-turn has been conducted.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I am no fan of “political prisoners” using legitimate political parties (who they actually oppose) to secure their release or better treatment. It is rank hypocrisy.
    I know for a fact that people like Paddy Devlin, Gerry Fitt, Desmond Gillespie and Vincent McCloskey……SDLP Assemblymen spent an inordinate amount of time in the early 1970s running around West Belfast RUC stations at the behest of worried mothers…….to find out where wee Paddy had been lifted.
    The repayment from these mothers was for their homes to be picketed and abuse shouted……until the next time “wee Paddy” was lifted.
    I am sure this is a scenario known to most SDLP MLAs and councillors in the Troubles years.
    I had no idea who Mr Brendan Lillis was before his appearnace on Slugger pages.
    And I cant bring myself to care. Except to wonder about the fact that his family and supporters seem to have got SDLP and Sinn Féin MLAs to lobby for him…….while the more extreme republican elements are not exactly enthused.
    If there has been a “white line protest”, I have missed it.

    There can only be two reasons why Mr Lillis has been released.
    Either.
    His condition (and he cant stand trial for the inhumane crime of which he was accused) has deteriorated and he should be released on humane grounds.
    Or
    His release would be a welcome development and get SDLP MLAs and Sinn Féin MLAs (Ford owes his job in part to the latter) off Fords back.

    I think either scanario is perfectly possible.

  • lamhdearg

    fjh,
    the rnu, have been at the forefront of the release brenden campaign. i hope this case is watched with much vigor by those that smell a rat.

  • Turgon

    fjh,
    I agree re the two scenarios. In other cases the medical evidence has been produced. Ford needs to do that now if he wishes to prove the first of your options. If not the second becomes much the most likely.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I think that is another interesting “either/or” case.
    Ford could legitimately claim that medical advice is not for the public to know.
    And while I would rule out that doctors would provide a report to facilitate Fords decision (as Im sure we all would) there might be a degree of ambiguity in that report which has been seized upon by Ford……oops I mean his professional advisors…..and the publication of the advice might lead to even more ambiguity.

    Whether this is a fig leaf or a good reason….depends on our view of “the System” or David Ford.

  • Independent Ulster

    fitzjameshorse1745

    You say,

    “There can only be two reasons why Mr Lillis has been released.”

    The truth as ever murky, will lie somewhere in between the two.

    What we can say with certainty is that as soon as the DUP rolled over to SF blackmail on the transfer of Police and Justice powers, the Justice minister would come under severe poitical pressure from Republicans.

    The Brtish government have conspired with SF-IRA to place the terrorists at the heart of power and to pervert the justice system.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Pete,

    This is uncharacteristically bad and agenda-laden reporting on your part. I’m quite shocked.

    The NI Justice Minister has a responsibility to explain why

    No he doesn’t. The Parole Commissioners make their decision in closed session and independently. The Justice Minister is not in a position to make any such explanation.

    the Paroles Commissioners have reversed the advice they gave to him at the end of July.

    Reading Section 6 of the Life Sentences Order 2001, the Justice Minister is not empowered to overrule when the Parole Commissioners direct that a life sentence prisoner be released :

    3) As soon as—

    (a)a life prisoner to whom this Article applies has served the relevant part of his sentence; and

    (b)the Commissioners have directed his release under this Article,”

    it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to release him on licence.

    It took me all of ten minutes to dig that lot up.

  • Comrade Stalin

    fitz:

    I don’t know why you are peddling that nonsense, or perhaps I do. Ford’s job is even more secure than that of Catriona Ruane. There is no need for Ford to curry particular favour with anyone. Firing him in the absence of an alternative candidate, at this moment, means bringing down the executive. If you think SF were ever going to do that over the question of a prisoner, you really are in la-la land.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    The problem seems to be that the if above is a very big if. As Ford suggested decisions to release etc. on compassionate grounds are very rare.

    That “big if” does not apply as Ford is the only one who has the power to release the prisoner on compassionate grounds and it appears that he did not do this, the release was ordered by the Parole Commissioners.

    The Commissioners themselves appear to be only empowered to consider a single aspect which is outlined in paragraph Section 2, paragraph 3 of the 2001 Order :

    the Commissioners are satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm that the prisoner should be confined.

    So in other words (perhaps m’learned friends could clarify ?) the Parole Commissioners reviewed the case following the change in the medical advise and determined that Lillis was no longer a threat to the public.

    I don’t find any of that particularly improbable or difficult to believe.

  • Turgon

    CS,
    Your spinning is becoming pretty desperate here.

    The simple reality is that Ford told us he was not going to release Lillis and now Lillis has been released. Unless some satisfactory explanation is given it looks overwhelmingly as though Ford has buckled to pressure (or ensured others do the buckling for him).

    Whilst Ford was not about to be sacked by Sinn Fein over this, he Ford, has repeatedly proven himself to be pretty weak, somewhat vain and highly vascillating. Hence, a U-turn at SF’s behest is entirely typical: indeed I predicted it about two weeks ago; I am surprised Ford was so weak as to bow the knee so quickly but there you go: he is even weaker than I thought.

  • lamhdearg

    He is also in the **** over this.
    From utv,
    The Ulster Unionist Party is calling for an urgent meeting with the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister after letters sent by the Department of Justice reportedly identified former part-time RUC officers.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Your spinning is becoming pretty desperate here.

    Feel free to point out any errors of fact.

    The simple reality is that Ford told us he was not going to release Lillis and now Lillis has been released.

    Ford didn’t release Lillis. The Parole Commissioners did. So what’s the problem ?

    Unless some satisfactory explanation is given it looks overwhelmingly as though Ford has buckled to pressure (or ensured others do the buckling for him).

    I just pointed out the part of the legislation which enumerates Ford’s powers, and those of the Parole Commission. Let’s say Ford did buckle to pressure. What exactly are you claiming that he did under pressure and which of his powers as described in the above legislation did he use in so doing ?

    Whilst Ford was not about to be sacked by Sinn Fein over this, he Ford, has repeatedly proven himself to be pretty weak, somewhat vain and highly vascillating.

    Exactly which position has Ford reversed on ?

  • Turgon

    CS,
    In reverse order. Ford claimed twice he and Alliance would not take the justice position: he did.

    What he did under pressure? Well he was telling us Lillis was not going to be released as the medical evidence did not favour it: now Lillis has been released and we have been told of no new medical evidence.

    As to which of his powers in legislation: that is disingenuous. Ford has considerbale power not all of which is specifically outlined in legislation. If you claim that Ford or other ministers do not exercise very considerable direct and indirect power and influence then you are extremely foolish nay dishonest.

    Ford may well be hiding behind the parole commissioners: that simply demonstrates his weakness. His only way out is to demonstrate that the medical evidence on Lillis has changed and the cliaims of a psychiatrist that Lillis was dying of an arthritic condition does not count as real evidence.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Fords great “get out of jail card” in a manner of speaking is that he doesnt actually DO anything. He has all this professional advice……..on legal aid, prisoners, police, sensitive information going astray……..the one common denominator with every Department of Justice screw up….is Ford.
    While I can understand Comrade Stalins increasingly desperate and even amusing “spinning”, I am not really convinced by the notion that Ford is a puppet-master rather than a puppet.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    “It took me all of ten minutes to dig that lot up.”

    Well you should probably bury it again as it seems to be out of date [2001] – it refers to the “Secretary of State” for a start.

    “So in other words (perhaps m’learned friends could clarify ?) the Parole Commissioners reviewed the case following the change in the medical advise and determined that Lillis was no longer a threat to the public.”

    Rather than the “compassionate grounds” argument?

    I thought about that. But it still means a reversal of the Parole Commissioners’ advice within 3 weeks. With even less evidence of a material change in circumstances. Any newly discovered medical condition, by someone other than their official advisors, would have even less impact on that particular assessment.

    But that’s what David Ford, as NI Justice Minister, has a responsibilty to explain.

  • Independent Ulster

    Mc Guinness’s original forthright statement sounded like an authoritative demand for Lillis’s release to which Ford has now responded and the political problem for Ford is that he appears to have been heavily lent on by SF.

    Ford, had used his politcal skill to good effect to secure the Justice ministry but only after he reversed his Party’s publically stated position and has now left himself open to further charges of politcal expediency and weakness in this very sensitive area.

    Political gain for SF at the expense of the law abiding people of Northern Ireland.

  • http://www.e-consultation.org/ davenewman

    There is one assumption in the discussion above that may not be valid. That is the assumption that doctors working for the prisons service are competent. Yet there is a tradition for prison doctors to assume that all prisoners are malingerers, just like the guards who played cards rather than doing the rounds of suicide watch.

    It is not uncommon outside Northern Ireland for relatives to have to mount a public campaign until prison governors take medical conditions seriously.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    Ford………..more ethical than doctors?

  • ranger1640

    DUP Justice Committee Chairman Paul Givan is it to meet with the Parole Commissioners to discuss the Brendan Lillis release.

    Mr Lillis, who suffers from a severe form of arthritis, was released last week after a campaign by his family.

    In a statement the commissioners said they had not bowed to pressure.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14612636

    Parole Commissioners who released republican prisoner Brendan Lillis last week from police custody will be asked to justify and explain their decision on Monday.
    Chair of the justice committee, the DUP’s Paul Givan will hold a meeting with the group.

    http://www.u.tv/News/Lillis-release-to-be-explained/fe86fc62-9671-4d35-897f-c818a4f568bd

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon:

    In reverse order. Ford claimed twice he and Alliance would not take the justice position: he did.

    I thought you were talking about stuff that happened after he took office.

    What he did under pressure? Well he was telling us Lillis was not going to be released as the medical evidence did not favour it: now Lillis has been released and we have been told of no new medical evidence.

    You were clearly not listening or you are being disingenuous.

    What I heard Ford say was that the criteria for compassionate release had not been met, and that the question of Lillis’ release was a matter for the Parole Commissioners. He didn’t talk of whether or not he “favoured” Lillis’ release and it would of course be inappropriate for him to do so.

    Ford hasn’t reversed his position. The Parole Commissioners have, and it seems reasonable to believe that they did so based on changed circumstances. Ford has no power to reverse the decision of the Parole Commissioners and it would be entirely inappropriate if he did so, or even if he commented on their decision.

    As to which of his powers in legislation: that is disingenuous. Ford has considerbale power not all of which is specifically outlined in legislation.

    So where did he get those magical special powers if not legislation – Castle Greyskull ?

    If you claim that Ford or other ministers do not exercise very considerable direct and indirect power and influence then you are extremely foolish nay dishonest.

    So what exactly direct or indirect power do you think Ford exercised wrongly here ?

    Are you actually advocating that Ford should have stuck his finger on the scales behind the scenes to stop Lillis being released ?

    Ford may well be hiding behind the parole commissioners: that simply demonstrates his weakness.

    What exactly are you proposing that Ford should have done ?

    His only way out is to demonstrate that the medical evidence on Lillis has changed

    There is no “way out” for Ford, even if he wanted there to be one, because there are no matters here that he has taken a decision on. Ford does not have the authority to provide an explanation for why an independent body chose to make the decisions that it did. How could he explain a decision he had no involvement in ?

    and the cliaims of a psychiatrist that Lillis was dying of an arthritic condition does not count as real evidence.

    The psychiatrist was a clear republican sympathizer (google Sean O Domhnaill) brought in by the family to stamp his seal of approval on their case. Personally I wouldn’t be disposed to his opinion.

    Peter,

    Well you should probably bury it again as it seems to be out of date [2001] – it refers to the “Secretary of State” for a start.

    I can’t tell whether you are being obtuse or if you are literally that ignorant. Surely you are not so out of touch as to believe that all the justice-related legislation prior to 2009 has to be rewritten because it doesn’t mention devolution ?? Surely you are aware that when justice was devolved the justice minister/department took over all the justice functions previously exercised by the Secretary of State ?

    I had always thought you’d grasped the details behind matters like this but there are some shocking gaps in your understanding here.

    Rather than the “compassionate grounds” argument?

    Peter, it’s all there if you’ll just read, I pointed out the legislation out there in plain terms. Only the justice minister has the power to release on compassionate grounds (and he didn’t). Only the Parole Commission have the power to release on the basis of the level of threat to the public (after a certain proportion of the life sentence has been served) – which is what has happened.

    It’s all there in black and white so why are you throwing silly speculation out there ?

    I thought about that. But it still means a reversal of the Parole Commissioners’ advice within 3 weeks.

    What’s wrong with that ? Lillis was moved from jail to hospital, clearly there was a change in the medical advice. So why wouldn’t the Parole Commission change its position ?

    With even less evidence of a material change in circumstances.

    It would be a useful thing if your concerns about evidence extended to the point that enabled you to support your implications of allegations of interference in due process.

    Any newly discovered medical condition, by someone other than their official advisors, would have even less impact on that particular assessment.

    Who said anything about a newly discovered medical condition ? The Irish Echo is pretty hard to take seriously.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Guys,

    This thing of “the justice minister is weak and is hiding behind the legislation” is plain daft. The justice minister, like all ministers, is bound by legislation which specifically enumerates what he can and cannot do (this is why, for example, Catriona Ruane is “hiding behind legislation” when she failed to prevent grammar schools from implementing entrance exams). You guys seem to be under the impression that ministers in certain circumstances should be able to just make up the law and ignore the legislation. When they try that a judicial review happens (and this has happened in recent years) and the decision gets overturned.

    I suggest you please obtain for yourselves a clue on how politics and government in the Westminster system actually work before you make these ridiculous claims.

    I would also point out that the Home Secretary in England & Wales recently had his powers to make prisoner release decisions taken away, the power is now exercised by the courts. I have a suspicion we will see similar changes here. The courts are the right place for these arguments to take place, they should not be in the hands of politicians.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    “I can’t tell whether you are being obtuse or if you are literally that ignorant.”

    Or I was being flippant.

    “I had always thought you’d grasped the details behind matters like this but there are some shocking gaps in your understanding here.”

    Probably…

    “What’s wrong with that ? Lillis was moved from jail to hospital, clearly there was a change in the medical advice. So why wouldn’t the Parole Commission change its position ?”

    There’s nothing wrong with that. As long as the Minister explains clearly why that position has changed in the space of 3 weeks.

    As I said in the original post, you may have missed it.

    Merely stating that the advice has changed is not sufficient.

    It doesn’t matter whether that’s advice on the “compassionate grounds” argument or on their assessment of whether Lillis poses a risk to the public.

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont think even Fords leading apologist could re-invent him as the Political Colossus of Our Age.

  • Munsterview

    Just how important is peace, stability and continuing political cooperation between the major political parties to the posters in slugger and to the Majority of the people in the North. ?

    Pretty important it would seem, they voted for the Good Friday Agreement in in decisive numbers over dissenting views in both the Nationalist and the Unionist side.

    Martin McGuiness expressed a certain view of where we were at the present and as to how he see the future. This was overwhelming endorsed by his electorate then and at each subsequent election.

    ‘Turgon’ also expressed a view, that view could not be accommodated inside Mainstream Unionism, he and others set up a separate political party to promote that particular viewpoint and it was decisively rejected by the Unionist electorate.

    We should bear these simple facts in mind when reading views here, all views may get the same space for expression ( and rightly so) but all views most definitely do not carry the same weight!

    Neither should we forget that the current Northern State is but the latest Artificial attempt to make an Artificial State work, it is like all compromises painfully arrived at after a polarizing , bloody conflict the Governance Structure is cumbersome, lumbering in operation and is unwanted and unloved by most participants.

    It has however created a situation where by ignoring not so much ‘the elephant in the assembly’ as a whole bloody herd of them, where some political progress is possible.

    ‘Sinn Fein IRA’, to use Turgon’s definition did not follow their electorate into polling stations, put a gun to their heads individually or collectively and dictate to them as to how they should vote. The electorate made that decision in the privacy and secrecy of casting their ballot having thought about well before hand.

    At an earlier Northern election I met a Six County Republican in Dublin and after some exchange I asked if he thought that the electorate had made up their mind in the last couple of weeks. His answer ” No they did that in the last couple of centuries”!

    Conflicts seldom end cleanly, passions are too high and believes too sincerely held. It takes at least a generation.( And that do not allow for the Securicats and Spooks still playing silly buggers ) In the intervening time there will be many incidents and events, either legacy issues or directly arising from the past conflict that have the capacity to polarize.

    This case was one such one. For the Nationalists while Brendan stayed in jail, given his medical circumstances, it was proof that the old callous, unresponsive to Nationalist, Regime was still conducting ‘business as usual’

    For some Unionists, especially some of those articulating views here, it is their personal belief that far from Brendan being out of jail, McGuiness should be in there with him. This is how far their thinking have ‘progressed’, however polished and well presented their polemic is, it is just that, a polemic falling on deaf ears as their support at the polls verify.

    Given where we are coming from, these legacy issues arising from the conflict and ‘loose ends’ will continue for some years yet. To now every time these situations such as political prisoner issues arise, we are back again to kerbstone painting and staking out ground. It is all about the trees with scant regard for the wood.

    It took a widespread release of what the Nationalist Population in the Six Counties, the rest of Ireland and the wider world regarded as Political Prisoners, to make the GFA process possible.

    If it takes the release of people in circumstances like Brendan and other such things to prevent polizeration and allow the continued working and consolidation of the Peace Process, then so be it, we are not discussing a normal democracy here, we are, as I outlined, dealing with the latest Artificial attempt to make an Artificial Regional Statlet founded on an anti-democratic basis, work.

    There are far more serious contradictions in the workings of the political system glossed over to make the structure work than the occasional release of a political prisoner and what this may entail ‘for democracy’. These questions apply to normal functioning democratic systems, we are still a long, long way from that in the North as a whole or in the response of it’s Governance structures in particular.

    In the recent past I attended a cross cultural event in Mid Ulster where among other things a film was shown on Cromwell in Ireland and starting with the 1640 Planter Massacres. Afterwards there was a conversation exchange, when Unionists were talking Nationalists were listening and when Nationalists were talking the same applied to Unionists.

    This is the first time that I see real cross cultural engagement and exchange on political issues conducted in a ‘normal’ way outside of Academic circles. Such engagements cannot take place in a polarized political sphere and those in authority should be well aware of the issues that could arise to cause this polarization and eliminate these before the pot comes to the boil and indeed boils over.

    When there are grounds for the release of a political prisoner and these are measured against the possible damage that could be done to the process by non release, then on a pragmatic basis and leaving aside the moral issues, there is no contest and that release should take place for all the reasons given.

    If democratic norms cannot be applied to the General in the Six Counties if the State is to function, how then can people insist that they be applied to the particular?

  • sherdy

    Fitz, Possibly you might agree that David Ford is more of a Pontius Pilate than a political Colossus?

  • Pete Baker

    Update From the BBC report

    [DUP MLA Paul] Givan said the commissioners denied their decision was taken on compassionate grounds but was instead based upon public interest with regards to the level of risk that was posed to society.

    “At the beginning of August the justice minister outlined the only two reasons for a compassionate release, which are terminal illness and the inability to meet medical needs in prison,” he said.

    “Neither of those two issues relate to Mr Lillis’ case, and the Parole Commission made it clear today that the decision to release Brendan Lillis was made on the perceived risk to the public.”

    So, even after the independent medical assessment, Brendan Lillis continued to fail to meet the established criteria for release on compassionate grounds – severe ill health or a lack of appropriate medical treatment. And the NI Parole Commissioners then decide that the basis for revoking his licence in the first place no longer applies, despite the charges against him still standing?

    How very convenient…

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t see Ford as a political colossus, rather a person who has a somewhat thankless task. Before Lillis was released, Ford was described as a corrupt British imperialist lickspittle sucking up to the DUP to keep his job. Now, after Lillis has been released, Ford is a weak republican sympathizer desperate to give more concessions to Sinn Féin in order to keep his job. There would be a certain dark humour in that if the matters were are discussing were not so serious.

    Personally I tend to feel a bit of sympathy for someone in a job like that, irrespective of who it is. Of course, he will have been well aware that issues like this would come up when he decided to take it on.

    As for the Pilate thing, well that might apply if Jesus had been caught with a gang of four other people with firearms and wearing a balaclava and arrested in connection with kidnapping and extortion. I don’t recall seeing that in the bible, however.

    In terms of my own point of view .. I believe that the system is basically working as it is supposed to, and my arguments about the procedures followed by the DoJ both before and after the release are consistent in that respect. I don’t believe Lillis was on his death bed, nor do I believe he was being treated poorly in jail, nonetheless it is more than probable that his condition has deteriorated (hence the move to the hospital) and this has led to a review of the case. Little of this has anything to do with the justice minister, who has done nothing in this case beyond requesting a second medical opinion on Lillis’ condition. By right, though, no minister should have such powers and they really should be in the hands of the courts.

    Pete:

    Or I was being flippant.

    Maybe you could point it out for the benefit of those who believe you are trying to report events rather than take the piss.

    Merely stating that the advice has changed is not sufficient.

    It was certainly sufficient when that advice was used to keep Lillis in jail, wasn’t it ? Isn’t it awfully strange how our standards and expectations change when we disagree with the decisions taken ?

    It doesn’t matter whether that’s advice on the “compassionate grounds” argument or on their assessment of whether Lillis poses a risk to the public.

    The compassionate grounds argument is completely irrelevant, because Lillis was not released on those grounds. So we can stop talking about it.

    The risk assessment is the job of the Parole Commissioners as defined in legislation. As with the courts, they aren’t required to justify themselves to the jury of public opinion, and this is quite arguably right eg. same issue eg. with the decision to release the two who kidnapped and murdered the toddler James Bulger.

    So, even after the independent medical assessment, Brendan Lillis continued to fail to meet the established criteria for release on compassionate grounds

    A question which is completely irrelevant to Lillis’ release – why are you waffling about irrelevancies ?

    And the NI Parole Commissioners then decide that the basis for revoking his licence in the first place no longer applies, despite the charges against him still standing?

    Because they feel that he is no longer a threat to the public. What exactly is so hard to understand about that ?

    What exactly is it you are trying to suggest has taken place ? Are you arguing either that the Parole Commission have deliberately released a dangerous person in order to supplicate political concerns, or are you arguing that the original decision to return Lillis to jail was wrong ? If not, what ?

    You know full well what Occam’s razor is – ain’t it the case that the simplest explanation, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, is likely to be the truth ?

  • Independent Ulster

    Pet Baker,

    You say,

    “How very convenient…”.

    Not only convenient but entirely predicable.

    Both the Ulster Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist Party, until caving in to SF pressure, were against the devolution of Police an Justice because, as they rightly warned at the time, pressure from those who are in now in government and have known terrorist associations would inevitably lead to scenarios like we are now witnessing.

    Did anyone we really expect McGuinnes not to use his influence to help his former terrorist comrades?

  • http://myplasticarmy.blogspot.com/ fitzjameshorse1745

    “Did anyone we really expect McGuinnes not to use his influence to help his former terrorist comrades?”

    I see it in the context of Martin McGuinness responding to pressure rather than actually “wanting” to help and he has maybe put some pressure on his client Ford.

    But Im curious at the notion that Ford would need a second medical opinion as surely the condition of Mr Lillis would be under review anyway.
    Why would one of Fords underlings need to phone with a request “The Minister would like another medical report”. to the Parole Board or wherever.
    And when the Parole people then said this to its medical people….”The Minister would like another medical report…”
    Curious.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    “Because they feel that he is no longer a threat to the public. What exactly is so hard to understand about that ?”

    That they failed to reach the same conclusion a mere 3 weeks previously? Prior to the high profile political intervention?

    You really want to apply Occam’s Razor to that?

  • Independent Ulster

    fitzjameshorse1745

    You say

    “I see it in the context of Martin McGuinness responding to pressure rather than actually “wanting” to help and he has maybe put some pressure on his client Ford.”

    That is fair point, but the fact remains, notwithstanding the validity of the protestations that the crucial decision did not lie with Ford, the ‘juctice system’ does appear to have shifted position after the very public and political intervention of McGuinness and as Pete says it is very ‘convenient’ .

    This may come as a shock to some that justice could be so perverted, but it is rather like inviting the fox into the henhouse and then wondering where all your chickens have gone and the DUP have to take their share of the blame along with Ford, as it was they who issued the shameful invitation.

  • Munsterview

    Comrade Stalin : 22 August 2011 at 9:41 am

    Away over the weekend and just catching up.

    I have crossed swords with you before and no doubt will again, but this is for another day !

    I refer to the above post of yours : it is as well argued exposition of a proposition as I have seen for quite some time and indeed one that would do credit a professional Council in a formal court setting.

    My complements on this one : it is ‘case proven’ for your contentions to any objective person following this debate.

    I am not particularly interested in what legal fig leaf is used to justify the release of Brendan or others in their situation irrespective of what side of the political divide they come from. There are plenty of prison issues affecting the National community that are of general concern, but most of these issues are only of specific concern to the specific organizations that these prisoners belong to.

    There is an overwhelming Nationalist consensus to ‘work the system’ and implicit in this is the recognition that anybody not agreeing with that consensus and resorting to armed force must also be prepared to pay a price for that activity. This however applies only to ordinary circumstances. Brendan’s case involve extraordinary circumstances and such cases should be dealt with in an extraordinary way.

    When the greater good is taken into consideration, such releases and whatever ‘affronts to democracy’ they may represent to ‘normal politics’ should just be absorbed. We do not have normal politics in Northern Ireland, we have as previously posted the latest artificial attempt to make an artificial State work. It is necessary to keep majority consensus of the Nationalists for this arrangement to work and any perceived persecutive aspects of the system that resonate with the ‘Bad Old Days’ can suspend that consensus and support pretty quickly indeed.

    It should be also borne in mind also that Republicans taking the constitutional route only tolerate the current system as a means to an end. In so far as there is any acceptance of the political regime, it is only as a transitory process to what will be in the future. In cases such as Brendan’s the welfare of the wood as a whole far outweigh the fate of an individual tree !

  • Comrade Stalin

    Independent Ulster

    Both the Ulster Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist Party, until caving in to SF pressure, were against the devolution of Police an Justice because, as they rightly warned at the time, pressure from those who are in now in government and have known terrorist associations would inevitably lead to scenarios like we are now witnessing.

    This matter is little to do with the Minister of Justice who has no power to prevent the release of a person recommended for release by the Parole Commissioners. What on earth makes you think that the Secretary of State would have acted differently and/or would have been any less inclined to bow to pressure ?

    Did anyone we really expect McGuinnes not to use his influence to help his former terrorist comrades?

    What influence ?

    fitz:

    But Im curious at the notion that Ford would need a second medical opinion as surely the condition of Mr Lillis would be under review anyway.

    When the Minister’s advice is called into question (which is what those who were supporting Lillis were doing) it is entirely appropriate and correct to seek alternative opinions. That’s good government in my view.

    I’m not a doctor, but in my job I am from time to time required to provide advice on fairly major decisions, and when I do that I make often make a point of either trying to find a couple more people to review things separately and check that we all independently come to the same conclusion, or asking that the decision-maker do the same. A cynical person might call it covering one’s ass, a less-cynical person such as myself would say that it is appropriate to be aware of one’s own fallibility and ensure that the best advice is provided.

    Pete:

    That they failed to reach the same conclusion a mere 3 weeks previously? Prior to the high profile political intervention?

    You really want to apply Occam’s Razor to that?

    Certainly beats applying Occam’s razor to the idea that the parole commissioners, medical advisers and justice minister all conspired together to release a prisoner when they had every (political) motivation not to release him. You’re basically arguing that all those people are putting their professional reputations at risk. Why would they do that ? And what minister, given a choice, would prefer to have to explain the release of a kidnapper and extortionist to the public ?

    Munsterview,

    For me it is not a case of nationalists working the system, or prisoners of war, or whatever. I read in the Belfast Telegraph today that Brendan Lillis may well have to have a full time carer as he won’t be able to function on his own. if (and only if) that is true, it is wrong to keep a person in that condition in jail, irrespective of who it is or what they did. All part and parcel of being a lilly livered liberal; we live in a democracy which respects human rights, including those of prisoners.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    Due process was applied to this man of whom I know next to nothing.
    But he is essentially under permanent house arrest. If he ever recovers enough to step outside he will, quite properly, be re-arrested and brought before a judge and would be unlikely to get bail.
    The charges haven’t gone away and, although some people may not like it, he has the right to be presumed innocent until, and if, he is fit to stand trial and is convicted.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    “You’re basically arguing that all those people are putting their professional reputations at risk.”

    I’m “bascially arguing” nothing of the sort.

    The medical “compassionate grounds” argument “is completely irrelevant”, after all.

    What I have pointed out is that the NI Parole Commissioners failed to reach the same conclusion, that Brendan Lillis is no longer a threat to the public, a mere 3 weeks previously. Prior to the high profile political intervention.

    And that their newly arrived, and independent, conclusion lets David Ford off the [political] hook.

    But you keep fire-fighting…

  • Alias

    Most of it is ‘peace processing’ designed to consolidate the sentiment among the Catholics that there are more tribal rewards to gained by working the system from within than by opposing it.

    If you look at the lenght of time and the complexity of the appeals that it took to get other folks who weren’t even members of PIRA out of prison prior to the legitimisation of British rule (such as the Birmingham Six) and contrast it with the situation post-legitimisation, you’ll quickly see the tribe now has considerable influence in matters where before they had none.

  • Mark

    That’s a bit of a stretch Alias . The two cases / situations hardly compare . The Birmingham 6 were already convicted ( unjustly …) in an English court of law . They had been sentenced .

    Brendan lillis was deemed to ill to stand trial and his situation was ambigious to say the least . Catholics as you put it ( what’s that all about ? , it used to be Republicans then Nationalists and now it’s catholics ) had more to play with this time around …precedents had already been set re humanitarian grounds .

    BTW , Do you plan on sticking around for a while or is this just a fleeting visit ?

  • Mark

    typo ( again ) ambiguous ….gettin late

  • Alias

    Mark, it’s propaganda so it’s always “a bit of a stretch”. I think folks will note it, and that’s what it is playing in to. It’s basically saying. ‘Look how easily we can get one of our own out prison when we work the system from within.’

    I see it as sectarianism so I think Catholic is more appropriate than any political label that doesn’t actually apply. A nationalist is anyone who advocates a nation-state for his nation. That is not an optional part of the definition. Neither of the two catholic political parties in NI do that, so neither of them are nationalist parties. They have both signed up to the constituional legitimacy of British rule and are busy implementing it, having repudiatied their former right to national self-determination. Essentially, they are both parties that represent an ethno-religious group within the British state.

    Also, it appears that the grounds were ‘not a danger to the public’ rathern too ill to stand trial.

    Lastly, the lenght of my present sojourn is beyond my control. Having been banned 3 times in the last 2 months, I suspect the next ban will be a black card.

  • Alias

    Typo: “…the grounds for his release were ‘not a danger to the public’ rather than being ‘too ill to stand trial.’”

  • Comrade Stalin

    What I have pointed out is that the NI Parole Commissioners failed to reach the same conclusion, that Brendan Lillis is no longer a threat to the public, a mere 3 weeks previously. Prior to the high profile political intervention.

    Should the Parole Commission have paid no attention whatsoever, then, to the fact that Lillis was deemed sick enough to have to be moved to an outside hospital ?

    Alias:

    It’s basically saying. ‘Look how easily we can get one of our own out prison when we work the system from within.’

    You may not be aware that SF and the various dissident factions are not on good terms. Lillis’ immediate supporters want no part of the system and were not at all interested in working it from within.

  • Lugh

    “The charges haven’t gone away and, although some people may not like it, he has the right to be presumed innocent until, and if, he is fit to stand trial and is convicted.”

    Well said Joe. There are alot of people I would be scared to see on a Jury Panel if some of the blogging in here is what goes on inside their heads. The reality is that the presumption of law balanced against the risk to the public and the individuals health are carefully considered before any release to home. Tribal politics have no place in these discussions. It’s bad enough having a government that relies on tribal politics to exist.

  • Munsterview

    Joe : have a look at this ‘due process’ from a judicial murder of John Twiss in 1895 and then if interested google John Twiss execution and follow up some of the comment.

    http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1895/feb/14/the-execution-of-john-twiss

    The administration of British ‘Justice’ in Ireland, then as now was mired in controversy and characterized by two principle population responses as follows.

    First : Nationalists who had no confidence in the system delivering a fair, impartial and equitable justice or indeed any justice at all where the majority of their population were concerned.

    Second : Unionists who held that British administration of justice was literally the best in the world and above criticism never reproach. They also generally believed that ‘hanging was too good’ for anyone who fell foul of it !

    The administration of justice in the South may have it’s faults but generally it has the support of all sections of the populace, rich and poor, Catholic Protestant and non believer alike.

    Unionists just will not accept that most Nationalists, with good reason will never respect ‘Law’ that in the words of the Proclamation Of Independence belong to ‘An alien people and government’ especially when there is a legacy of that ‘Law’ enforced in a completely partisan and unjust way by one section of the population against the other for discrimination and naked political opression.

    Time and again throughout the late nineteenth century the issues thrown up by the Brendan Lillis case were thrown up. The issues arose from the same reasons also, the partisan application of the law in the first instance followed by a grasping for a legal or procedural fig leaf to cover a political expediency when the victim of the injustice involved began to attract significant public support and sympathy.

    As all ways what relief was done was too little, too late to satisfy Nationalist sentiment and the ‘fig leaf’ when found was so transparent and expident as to leave the Unionists disgruntled and angry about ‘exceptions’ being made to pander to Nationalism !

    Not too many changes there!

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    MV,

    I did as you suggested but couldn’t find anything that I could reasonably comment on other than to remark that the power of the State is overwhelming against an individual and that “the man” can’t be trusted. It has always been such in some cases but it’s incredibly upsetting when it happens in a capital case.

  • Pete Baker

    Comrade

    “Should the Parole Commission have paid no attention whatsoever, then, to the fact that Lillis was deemed sick enough to have to be moved to an outside hospital ?”

    He was transferred for another medical assessment, not because of a change in his medical condition.

    And we know, from the Parole Commissioners, that he wasn’t released on compassionate grounds because of that assessment.

  • Neil

    And we know, from the Parole Commissioners, that he wasn’t released on compassionate grounds because of that assessment.

    Precisely the point I’d have thought. Ford said he wouldn’t release him on medical grounds as the advice he’d been given prevented him from doing so.

    The Parole Commission decided that he wasn’t a threat to society so released him. Simple,

    His charges still stand should he be well enough to go to court, he’s already served two years in jail and I’d say he behaved himself fairly well due to his being be ridden for the best part of two years.

    Essentially, some people would very much like all Republicans locked up for the rest of their lives without any charges or trials. What sentence would you pass Pete Baker, on an unconvicted man in this instance? 5 years? 10?

    He’s done two, whcih depending on the level of violence used in his offence, would probably be well over the half way mark of the sentence that would be passed on an ODC for the same offence.

    So at what point do you think you’d allow an unconvicted man to be freed for this crime, in severe ill health, without the outrage? I imagine never?

    Would you support the same rounding up and locking away of UVF men, murderers of late? We don’t hear of their licences being revoked or their houses searched. Guess the cops are too busy apologising to them and that’s just the way you like it.

    Lock the fenians who don’t sit quietly and behave away. Ignore the various, dangerous, criminal Loyalists who shoot people dead on busy streets in the middle of the day.

  • Munsterview

    Joe : “…I did as you suggested but couldn’t find anything that I could reasonably comment on other than to remark that the power of the State is overwhelming against an individual and that “the man” can’t be trusted…… ”

    “…“the man” can’t be trusted…… ” Got it in one !

    Since the English Invasion of Strongbow it has been the Palatine against the Gael, then the Pale against the Gael and Post The Elizabethan Wars, Dublin Castle against the Gael and their aspirations until the latter was put out of business in 1922 !

    The only time prior to the treaty when there was justice and fairness in law for all in Ireland since the Flight Of The Earls and the suppression of Brethon Law, was under the Republican Courts. These were courts that in civic matters, worked not on the adversarial system of proving one side wrong, but on arbitrating a consensus and reaching an agreement.

    In criminal matters the emphasis was in restorative justice to make good the damage done and the wrong caused to the victim in the first instance. Where the transgressor did not have the means to pay a fine to the victim, the persons was allocated to work so many days ( most of the crimes were petty by today’s standards such as a habitual drunk stealing fowl or eggs to pay for drink or breaches of the community peace ) this money for his labour was paid directly to the Republican Courts who paid the victim.

    To understand what happened to this operating and at the time, well regarded system one must pull back from this particular tree and have a look at the wood as a whole. The Republican revolution was a social as well as National liberation struggle. The war unleashed social forces that were outside the control of the Revolutionary movement, there were large scale take overs of factories by workers and estates by tenants. Many of these went whole hog and declared Soviets and flew the Red Flag!

    The Republican Movement had many strands, religious, cultural social and Nationalistic. Many of the pre-treaty Republicans were middle class, comfortable and some comparatively wealthy.
    These wanted limited social change but they were horrified at the emergence of the Soviets and the thought of a Worker’s Republic, which on historical examination was not then as far fetched as it may now seem with hindsight.

    The treaty was not just about ‘The Six Counties’, in fact the latter was a side issue for many Republicans, they were involved in the Second Defense Of The Republic as they see it and once The Republic was established the Two Counties that had voted for a Republic were secure and they could reach an accommodation with England and the Unionists regarding the remaining Four Counties.

    What happened in the so called Civil War is best summed up in a book title on the Republican Courts called ‘Retreat From Revolution’ England ‘did business’ with a small cabal of the Irish Establishment that wanted a return to the social status quo, albeit with some improvements in social conditions.

    It was like pressing the reset button on a computer, when the Free State was consolidated all the old structures and programs that administered Ireland for the Empire were still in place with just the names changed. There was some tinkering around the edges such as a District Court system at the bottom tier but the same Legal System was held in place.

    The real accounts of the Second Defense Of The Republic have yet to be written as to call a spade a spade the period is, in the First Defense Of The Republic a war of National and Social Liberation and in the Second Defense Of The Republic, ‘retreat from Revolution’ and in effect a Counter Revolution against Full Republicanism and all it entails by a Irish Conservative Establishment Elements armed equipped and financed by England to preserve what she could of her financial and other strategic interests in Ireland.

    It was not ‘A War Between Brothers and Comrades’ as the poplar historical narrative has it. Once Sinn Fein gained a majority in Twenty Eight Counties for a Republic in 1918, Business men and bigger farmers began to join the Volunteers in significant numbers, which usually meant their employee did too.

    Guess who was elected the new Company Officer ?

    These ‘Johnny Come Lately’s’ were the ideological back bone of the new Free State Army. The rank and file, to begin with were IRA volunteers but very quickly these were swamped in all areas by the rapid influx of ex-First World War demobilized British Service men who were now in Green Uniform but with all their attitudes and program indoctrinated in the British Army intact. The ethos of the New Free State Army was essentially the same as that of the Irish Regiments that served the British Army such as The Connacht Rangers or the Munster Fusileers.

    ( That in fact is not a fair comparison : there was Irish Traditions in these regiments and an ethos passed down. They held many patriotic Irishmen as the mutiny of the Rangers in India have shown).

    There was an added bite to the conflict, these same Irish Men serving in the First World War British Ranks ‘went away heros and came back traitors’ many of these sincerely that they were fighting for home rule and would have achieved it had it not been for the ‘stab in the back by the Easter Rising and Sinn Fein Rebellion’

    The term of derision used by these ‘real soldiers’ for their Republican Citizen Soldier Volunteer opponents was ‘Pa Joe’s’ and for them it was a question of ‘vengeance be jazus’ whenever an unfortunate Republican came in their gun sights.

    As ‘God is on the side of the Big Battalions’ the green uniformed Counter Revolutionaries systematically took back the factories for the owners, the estates for the Landlords and the country for the Old Irish Establishment social / economic grouping that had been in financial and political control up to the 1918 elections. Now that the ‘New Pro Treaty Forces Establishment’ had proved that they could be trusted in suppressing radical social tendencies the Old Establishment made a reluctant accommodation with them as a necessary expediency but never really accepted them.

    Between the Two World Wars the Old Establishment was gradually replaces by the ‘New Fine Gael and later Fianna Fail one, but with much of the Old Imperial Administrative system and attitudes towards social policy and the underclass firmly in place. Law was the primary instrument for enforcing and maintaining this system and as it was ‘business as usual’ in the new Free State and later ‘The Republic’ no need to change that legal system. After all the English had allowed it to evolve to to serve a certain need and as this need had not changed, the English System was and still is still fit for purpose.

    Trinity College is often fingered as the last bastion of British ethos in the State and indeed it may still have a significant influence. However the real bastion of British ethos with an innate respect bordering on reverence for British Law and precedent is to be found in the Law Library.

    To give but one example, since 1932 a supposedly Republican party had been in government for the majority of that period. There is a massive bronze tablet wall mounted monument outside the Incorporated Law Society For their first World War dead. The Barristers are also commemorated.

    Dozens of leading Republicans were involved with the Four Courts Garrison and lost their lives as result of their activity there. They are still without a memorial despite the fact that the Political Party that claims their heritage, Fianna Fail has had ample opportunity to do so during the last eighty-eight years !

    If this is the situation in the South, any surprise then that there are problems with the North’s Legal System and perceptions regarding same !