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Former republican prisoner takes own life after arrest for putting up anti-suicide posters

Henry MacErlean was arrested for erecting a poster for help line ‘Lifeline’ last June.

A poster similar to the one Henry MacErlean erected in north Belfast
A poster similar to the one Henry MacErlean erected in north Belfast

A FORMER REPUBLICAN prisoner has died by suicide after being arrested for erecting anti-suicide posters.

Henry MacErlean, 62, was found at his home in north Belfast on Sunday night.

He had been arrested in June for erecting a poster on a lamppost with details for Lifeline, a suicide support helpline.

MacErlean had been due to appear before a Magistrates Court in Belfast last Friday.

Speaking on the RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, his solicitor Seamus Delaney said that his client’s health had declined after being arrested in June, describing the change as “simply astonishing”.

Following the incident MacErlean was charged with obstructing police.

“It’s unbelievable how this arrest came about. We were coming up to the marching season in which loyalists and unionist bedeck their estates in banners and flags with impunity,” Delaney said.

The PSNI don’t bother them even though a lot of these flags, a lot of them paramilitary flags, are hoisted on public property.

He went on to say that he had known Henry MacErlean for most of his life and that he was a physically fit man who had previously ran marathons.

He also stated that a complaint has been issued to the Police Ombudsman in Northern Ireland.

“Considering what’s going on in Stormont at the moment, considering the crisis with the political log-jam, things like this are not allowed to overspill,” Delaney went on.

MacErlean had been convicted in the 1970s of a firebomb attack.

The Irish News has reported that MacErlean was heavily involved in community work and was a member of the Republican Network for Unity.

The PSNI has confirmed to TheJournal.ie that a complaint has been submitted to the Police Ombudsman and as such they are unable to comment on the case at this time.


  • Console  1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1890 303 302 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie - (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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