Northern Ireland

Derry republican Tony Taylor to be released today after almost 1,000 days behind bars

Derry republican Tony Taylor is set to be released from prison<br />&nbsp;
Derry republican Tony Taylor is set to be released from prison

The family of Derry republican Tony Taylor has welcomed a decision to release him from prison after almost 1,000 days behind bars.

The 50-year-old is expected to be released from Maghaberry Prison today.

It is understood his release has been directed by parole commissioners.

He has been held behind bars since March 2016 after his early release licence was revoked by then secretary of state Theresa Villiers.

A campaign was later launched to highlight his case with supporters claiming he was the victim of internment.

His wife Lorraine last night said her family will be “thrilled” to have him home.

Lorraine Taylor has campaigned for her husband&#39;s release from prison
Lorraine Taylor has campaigned for her husband's release from prison

“It will really make our Christmas special for us,” she said.

“Myself, the children and Tony’s parents are all delighted and very relieved to have him back with us.”

Ms Taylor said her family still has concerns.

“We are concerned nonetheless at some of the punitive restrictions which continue to be placed on Tony, who has already spent the equivalent of a five-year sentence in jail without charge,” she said.

Mr Taylor’s parents are both ill and housebound, while his son Blaine has a profound disability.

Earlier this month Mr Taylor’s father Willie wrote to Secretary of State Karen Bradley appealing for his son’s release.

The father-of three was seriously injured in a premature bomb explosion in Derry in 1994.

In a follow up search police found a Mark 16 mortar.

He was sentenced to 18 years in prison and released under the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2011 he was sentenced to seven years for possession of a rifle, with three years to be served in custody and four on licence.

His solicitor Aiden Carlin last night welcomed the decision to release his client.

“This is the outcome that the Taylor family, friends and supporters had been waiting for,” he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney also welcomed the Derry man’s release.

“News of Tony Taylor’s release today is welcome but doesn’t change the fact that he should never have been returned to prison in the first place,” he said.

“His release comes after 993 days wrongful detention, during which time the British government consistently failed to produce any evidence which could in any way justify his incarceration.”

Independent Derry City and Strabane councillor Paul Gallagher said “the council’s corporate position was to support his release”.

“I’m glad he was released but we have to look to ensure there are no more Tony Taylors,” he said.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: “We do not comment on individual cases.”