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Priest joins calls for release of Derry republican prisoner Tony Taylor

Derry republican Tony Taylor  
Seamus McKinney

A DERRY priest has joined a campaign for the release from prison of leading dissident republican Tony Taylor.

Holy Family parish priest Fr Paddy O’Kane said he also prayed for Taylor’s case during Sunday Mass last week.

Fr O'Kane came to national prominence in 2010 when he met dissident republicans following an attempted proxy bomb attack on the city's Strand Road PSNI station.

An anti-agreement republican, Taylor served 18 years in prison before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2011, he was sentenced to three years on a charge of possession of a gun. His case made history after surveillance evidence gathered by a drone was used against him.

In March this year, Taylor was arrested while on a family outing in Derry and had his licence revoked by then Secretary of State Theresa Villiers who claimed he was a risk to the public.

He has been held at Maghaberry prison since then.

Fr O’Kane said he decided to lend his support to the campaign for Taylor’s release because he was asked to do so by his wife, Lorraine.

Writing in his weekly column in the Derry News newspaper, he said: “She asked me as his parish priest to join the campaign too.”

Fr O'Kane told the Irish News that while he supported the campaign, he did not share Taylor’s politics and made his views on dissident republican actions known before when he described them as a “scourge to their local community”.

He said his support was based on his duty of pastoral care to a parishioner.

“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."

Fr O’Kane said he has met Mr Taylor in the past in prison and once at home. He said that while their views differed, he got on well with the Derry man.

“He comes across as a decent respectable family man,” Fr O’Kane said.

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