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Dublin: 18 °C Sunday 22 September, 2019
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Republican prisoner Brendan Lillis set free from prison

The former IRA member’s partner has told of her joy after Mr Lillis, who is seriously ill, was released in the North.

Belfast City Hospital, where Mr Lillis is being treated
Belfast City Hospital, where Mr Lillis is being treated
Image: Paul Faith/PA Archive/Press Association Images

REPUBLICAN PRISONER BRENDAN Lillis has been freed in Belfast after a long campaign for his release.

Former IRA member Mr Lillis, 59, was sentenced to life in prison in 1977 for possession of explosives. He was released under licence in 1993, but taken into custody again after being arrested in 2009 on robbery charges. His family, along with Sinn Féin and SDLP MLAs, have been campaigning for his release on compassionate grounds since it emerged he is suffering from an extreme form of arthritis.

He was transferred under guard to Belfast City Hospital from Maghaberry prison last week. His partner Róisín Lynch said she had learnt of the decision to release him last night, telling Claire Simpson in the Irish News (print edition): “The governor of Maghaberry rang me at 5.50pm and said the commissioners had decided Brendan should be let out with immediate effect.

The guards left there and then. He’s a free man and back on his licence.

She added: “I can’t believe it and I just want to thank everybody.”

According to the BBC Mr Lillis, who it’s believed will remain in hospital, said last night: “On top of my illness I feel elated.” He paid tribute to his partner, saying: “Róisín has moved mountains.”

Sinn Féin MLA Paul Maskey welcomed the decision. He told the Belfast Telegraph: “From the start what this case required was compassion from the criminal justice system. It was obvious that Brendan Lillis posed no threat to society, he has been bedridden for two years.”

However, the North’s DUP health minister Edwin Poots said the release was “unnecessary”, and Mr Lillis would have received just as high quality medical treatment in Maghaberry prison.

Earlier, Irish News reporter Allison Morris, who visited Mr Lillis in Maghaberry said his condition was “shocking”, adding that  he has been lying in the same position for months and his bed is soiled as it causes him too much pain to be moved. Mr Lillis has also been diagnosed as anorexic.

Read more: Seriously ill former IRA man begs for prison release >

Read more: Brendan Lillis transferred to hospital from Maghaberry Prison >

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Michael Freeman

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