Martin Galvin (MG) interviews Michael Doherty (MD) of the Free Tony Taylor committee via telephone from Doire about how the British government is again perverting democracy and the rule of law by using internment-by-licence, this time in the case of this Doire Republican. (begins time stamp ~ 46:41)
MG: Michael Doherty. Michael, welcome to Radio Free Éireann.
MD: Thanks, Martin. Thank you very much.
MG: Michael, you’re on the committee, we just introduced the story of Tony Taylor, why you think it’s internment-by-licence. I just want to read something from today’s Irish News . The headline of the story: ‘Priest Joins Call for Release of Derry Republican Prisoner’ and it’s a priest, Father Patrick O’Kane, called for Tony Taylor’s release; the latest. And he says:
The case simply boils down to this – they should either charge him or release him. The fact is however they are in no rush to do so and seem quite happy to simply sit on their hands and keep Tony locked up. That is where the injustice lies.
Michael, could you tell us about Tony Taylor, about why he’s in prison, why he doesn’t get a hearing that his own lawyer can attend and defend him and then try and show his innocence?
MD: Yeah, well Tony was released from prison in 2014 and they released him under a system called ‘licence’ which means that if you pose a risk to the public or re-offend you can be brought back to prison to then stay out the remainder of your sentence, okay? Now what happened with Tony was he was released, he abided by the terms of his licence. He continued to peacefully agitate on issues regarding prisoners’ rights, the welfare of the cuts that were happening to the poor in society and he became an important member of the community for those issues while remaining Republican and opposed to the political regime here. And what happened was that in March of this year while Tony was out shopping with his wife and three kids he was surrounded by armed police, arrested and returned to prison. Now what they said then was that Tony was returned to prison and his licence was revoked because he posed a risk to public safety. And that’s all they said.
MG: Alright. And then when – how does he contest that? How would he and his lawyer, Aiden Carlin, be prepared to contest that? And I understand there is some kind of hearing but neither Tony Taylor or his solicitor can attend that hearing and be told exactly what the accusations are against him. Is that correct?
MD: Yeah, well before that we need to go a little bit further back in that October of last year Tony was arrested and taken to a police station in Belfast. He was questioned for two days over alleged Republican activity. The police unconditionally released him but they sent a file to the legal authority here, the Public Prosecution Service, to see whether charges should be brought, okay? So Tony was released; he was quite happy. And then he was again taken back into prison. But why he’s been in prison since the Public Prosecution Service has stated that on this evidence, or the lack of it that was produced, Tony has no case to answer. So the next part of the process now is that the British Attorney General will appoint an advocate who will take up Tony’s case. Tony isn’t allowed to appoint his advocate nor is his solicitor – it is done by the British system. This advocate then will meet Tony and his solicitor and discuss Tony’s concerns with him and Tony’s incarceration with him. Then this advocate goes to a private meeting with the Parole Commissioners at which the evidence, or so-called evidence, will be produced but this is all in private and secret so…
MG: …And the advocate, Michael – correct me if I’m wrong – the advocate is not allowed to tell Tony or his solicitor exactly what the specific charges are. So for example, let’s say I’m going to go to Doire in a couple of weeks – suppose I was charged with something that happened today if I had a licence – that happened today at this particular time – whatever it is – six o’clock in Doire. If I knew about the accusation I could say: Wait a second! I was on the radio. John McDonagh was with me at all times. Michael Doherty was on the radio on the other end. There is a tape. There will be a transcript on rfe123.org. I have an absolute alibi. But if you don’t tell me what it is precisely, what the time frame is, what actions I’m doing I have no way to tell an advocate – an advocate has no way to present that. The advocate’s not allowed to tell me what the precise charge is because that, somehow, would endanger the safety and security of the British government. Isn’t that how it works?
MD: That’s exactly the case! I mean how can you defend yourself against charges when you don’t know what they are, when they’re supposed to have taken place – as you say – automatically if you have an alibi for any accusation then you don’t know that you actually even have it because you don’t know when it’s supposed to have taken place.
MG: And Michael, another thing I want to bring out: Tony Taylor is supported by all of the Nationalist politicians – he’s been supported by Eamonn McCann, who is now an MLA with People Before Profit. He’s supported by Anne McCloskey, who was an unsuccessful candidate. He’s been supported even – as well as priests, as I mentioned – by the SDLP (Social Democratic and Labour Party) and even by Martin McGuinness but that doesn’t seem to matter at all – Tony Taylor is still in! They keep saying they need agreements from everybody, from the whole community, to investigate legacy cases or to release funding for inquests but they don’t seem to need one when a British Secretary wants to imprison Tony Taylor.
MD: Well you see this is the problem with the whole system in itself in that, I can’t remember how many years ago, Policing and Justice were supposedly devolved to the administration in Belfast which included the SDLP, Sinn Féin and (inaudible) in Stormont as well. But in this matter they have claimed it’s what called a ‘reserved matter’ regarding national security so therefore the decision was made by the Secretary of State. Her initial decision to imprison Tony was found three weeks later to be illegal because they hadn’t even followed their own flawed process. The Secretary of State was supposed to talk to the Probation Service to find out if Tony had broken any of the conditions of his probation and they didn’t even do that. So the first three weeks of Tony’s incarceration they have now admitted were completely illegal. But of course in the meantime they have now retrogradedly come back and sorted that out but for the meantime Tony is still inside and Stormont is effectively powerless in it – this is coming from London.
MG: Alright were have one, Theresa Villiers, that I usually refer to as Lady Macbeth because she starts to – just like Lady Macbeth – rubbing her hands to wash away the blood stains – Theresa Villiers used to do that with speeches. She’s the original Secretary who imprisoned him. That’s been taken up and adopted by James Brokenshire, the person who the Ballymurphy Massacre families walked out on last week, and who was recently telling American politicians how open he is, that a new day has dawned and there is justice but still he continues and maintains the internment-by-licence of Tony Taylor. And Michael, could you tell…
MD: Yeah well the difficulty with James Brokenshire, sorry for interrupting there, is that if you look back at his own political history the people who are making the accusations against Tony Taylor are these secretive MI5 security services. And if you look back in James Brokenshire’s history he is from them. He was a member of MI5 or at least an associate of them for many years so he has that background. So it’s a continuation of Villiers’ regime. I can’t see how he can speak about openness and resolving issues of the past when there’s a current issue which he could resolve immediately at the stroke of a pen or at least, if he’s not willing to do that and release the man immediately, at least bring him to court and get the evidence out there whereas supposedly a western democracy they would believe in natural justice.
MG: Alright. It seems that Tony Taylor is being used as a pawn, as a Sword of Damocles over the head of anybody else – there are many people who are former Republican prisoners who may have licence or time who were released under either the Good Friday deal or other sentences and have to know that they could be the next Tony Taylor if they become too active in the community, if they start to be of concern to the British government they can simply be put in and that would be it. And Tony Taylor – he owes a total of four years, if they want to keep him there that long. He’s a man with a family, a wife, I know one of his children is handicapped and this is a situation that continues to go on despite the fact that so many Nationalist politicians, clergy, have supported him. Alright Michael, we want to thank you for bringing that to our attention, we’ve got to close off just in a minute, is there any final word you want to say?
MD: Well I’d just like to say that exactly that point: That it is the fear that if they can do this to Tony Taylor, do this to anyone on licence, then it’s the next step to do this to anybody. So it’s a natural justice issue for everybody not just one small group.
MG: Alright. We want to thank you, Michael Doherty, for coming on talking about Tony Taylor and I hope to see you in a couple weeks when I’m in Doire at The Playhouse at the Brendan Hughes Lecture.
MD: We will be there as well. We will have a stall there and we’ll look forward to seeing you there.
JM: And Martin, you’re seeing now the value of Radio Free Éireann because the British government have learned a lot over the last thirty years with people that are out on bail we’ve experienced that they’ve told us they can’t do interviews anymore. They can’t even live in the area where they’re from – they have to stay away. So and then anybody that we would like to interview, say like a Tony Taylor, they’re now being interned so they are making it far more difficult for radio stations here in New York City, particularly WBAI and Radio Free Éireann, to get voices out there and to get voices on because they’re clamping down on it by making the bail conditions – or if they don’t make bail conditions – we’ll just lock you up! (ends time stamp ~ 58:36)