Russian Roulette

It's quite clear that this man is very seriously ill and causes no harm or grief to anyone …  Our point is that anyone who is too ill to stand trial, how can that person then be a danger to the public when they can't even attend a court appearance? - West Belfast MP Paul Maskey

The former republican activist Brendan Lillis continues to be held in Maghaberry Prison despite widespread media discussion of his plight and street campaigning on his behalf. There had been some hopes that the British Government would have stepped back from its current hard-line position and assume a more compassionate stance. These hopes were dashed when the Life Sentence Review Commission refused earlier this week to release Brendan Lillis.

Last week saw a hunger strike vigil staged over a three day period aimed at drawing attention to the situation of the very ill West Belfast man. The venue was highly symbolic, the site of the old Andersonstown RUC barracks. Situated in the heart of West Belfast it is a mere few steps from Milltown Cemetery which holds the graves of three republican hunger strikers interred there after their deaths in Long Kesh in 1981. Bobby Sands, Kieran Doherty and Joe McDonnell all took part in the Blanket protest with Brendan Lillis. It is particularly poignant that the two sisters of Bobby Sands voiced public concern over the treatment of Lillis and called for his release.

The significance of the highly charged symbolism cannot have been lost on Sinn Fein. Many party luminaries have made spectacular political careers launched by the hunger strikes but who have since labelled the type of activity the hunger strikers engaged in while armed republican activists as the work of traitors. They now find themselves strenuously supporting the forces of the British state which is tasked with doing exactly as they did during the hunger strikes of 1981 - cracking down on republican activism.

The incongruity of the Sinn Fein position seems to have caused some discomfort within the party. Not every member is so lobotomised as to swallow without gagging the sight of Martin McGuinness standing shoulder to shoulder with Peter Robinson ‘screaming’ traitors at republicans for carrying out the type of activities that he ordered for decades before taking the queen’s shilling and for which the 1981 hunger strikers were serving time.

Perhaps this is the reason that some middle ranking Sinn Fein officials have thrown their weight behind the campaign. They have spoken out in the media about the ongoing incarceration of Brendan Lillis, have visited him in prison and have even put an appearance in at the Andersonstown vigil. No doubt the individuals involved genuinely dislike what is happening to their erstwhile comrade but at the strategic level within the party their activity is part of an exercise in the controlled management of political turbulence; harness and divert.

Supporters of the sick prisoner feel that while the top party leaders, who wield the real clout, maintain a distance from the issue, the British government will not treat it with either the urgency or compassion that it merits.   

In a statement from the Friends of Brendan Lillis support group it was pointed out that:

The continued imprisonment of Brendan Lillis is a travesty of justice and that travesty is multiplied a hundred fold by the inaction and/or inability of Sinn Fein to actually DO anything other than make statements purporting to support Brendan and Roisin.

It has not gone unnoticed among the backers of Brendan Lillis that Martin McGuinness was quickly out of he traps in relation to PSNI arrests linked to the investigation into the killing of Ronan Kerr but remains in a state of stasis regarding Brendan Lillis.

A somewhat more heavyweight intervention has come in the form of the recently elected Sinn Fein Westminster MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey who called on the British micro minister for Justice David Ford to:

show leadership and release Brendan Lillis … The decision taken by the Life Sentence Review Commission not to release Brendan Lillis was the wrong decision and we made this clear to the Justice Minister pressing on him the need to overturn this decision and release Brendan Lillis immediately … Brendan Lillis is currently critically ill - too ill to stand trial. He is currently 5 stone 5lbs in weight and while this legal advice is awaited his health could deteriorate further … the continued imprisonment of Brendan Lillis does not serve the public interest and he should be released now on humanitarian grounds.

Welcome words from the West Belfast MP but it merely reinforces the paradox of how ‘deeply superficial’ change has been in the North’s justice arena. Unfortunately the nationalist voice is not been listened to. Unionist discourse is amplified in the ears of British state decision makers. Gregory Campbell’s branding of Brendan Lillis as ‘a terrorist and a criminal who was responsible for a number of serious crimes’ seems more inclined to chime with the British state perspective. He has called on David Ford to resist demands for the release of Lillis. Up to now the voice of the DUP is being listened to and that of Sinn Fein ignored.

While the political class that governs the North argue back and forth, Brendan Lillis is tied to a hospital bed at the side of which British officialdom plays Russian roulette with his life. At some point the bullet in the chamber will be struck.


  1. Anthony

    On cursory glance at the credentials of some MLA's I could not imagine that they would not be doing all that they can for Brendan. In fact the issue is perhaps so personally close to them that I am sure they cannot be anything but moved by it. So I would accept that they are throwing their weight behind Brendans case, not because of the the jarring words of MMcG, but because they may actually care about the issues.

    Marty on the other hand is loosing it, I think he over shot in expectation that the PSNI would appologise for recent wrongful arrests of Nationalists as they had appologised to Loyalists for starting major riots in East Belfast. It cannot have been inspiring that the Chief Constable slapped him down in public as he did.


  2. Tiarna,

    they delight in having Martin where he is. After the turmoil he put them through they revel in having put manners on him.

  3. The provos taught the brits a very big lesson: simply wait and northern republicans will become 'more unionist than the unionists'.

    Only criminals I see in the North are those in the SF leadership, traitors and criminals...oh aye and paedophile protectors. Gerry may never have been in the IRA [SIC] but he was in no doubt about his brother Liams guilt.

    nice family that one.

    Hope BL gets released soon.

  4. Looks like Martin MMcG is putting manners into the p.s.n.i- and the dumb cops do not like it-

    those 5 were released quickly because Martin give the cops bad manners- bad policing still happens- but they can't stand bad pr anymore-one of those released asked political partys in fidays Irish news to bring his case to the policing partnership / boards-
    page 2-

    One of those up for killing two brits at massereene was let out of prison for health reasons yet Brendan Lillis is still kept in prison- whats going on-

  5. Good article Anthony,

    I have been trying my best to raise awareness of this issue in my area. Last night I bumped into a man who did 12 years in Portlaoise for PIRA activities. I spoke to him about it as he had several republican badges on his jacket. He could list all the PSF H-Block commemerations going on in my County this month yet he claimed to be utterly unaware of this issue. He was a Belfast man.

    PSF are utterly two-faced, claiming to uphold the Republican tradition while supporting a British regime that is proving itself to be as brutal and opressive towards Republican dissent as any that has gone before.

    I am beginning to wonder what their motovation can be. Do they want to provoke a violent reaction and bring down Stormont to escape without admitting blame from the bad, bad deal they made? What then, a return to violence and chaos for decades to come?

    I dispair.


  6. Dont agree that the PSNI put mi6 marty in his place. Recon adams+marty+more than a few others took that lucrative road by choice many many years ago.

    The 'peace process' was a mechanism for them to break cover and enjoy the 'proceeds'.

    Unfortunately too many were seduced by the SF cult and media hype. The slimeballs got away with it.

    Turn back the clock 40yrs;

    pile up 3000 skulls like in Cambodia

    regular weekend attacks on gerry fitt's house to drive fitt the brit out

    10 hungerstriker deaths..countless jail years and Vol. deaths...

    SF become unionists, adams squats in fitt's house and Irish physical force advocates are traitors and criminals....



  7. michalehenry,

    'Looks like Martin MMcG is putting manners into the p.s.n.i'

    Seems the loyalists are doing better. They got an apology whereas J118 only got a slap on the wrist for intefering.

  8. John

    whats j118 was that the mi6 code for the 'fisherman'?

  9. Larry,

    'whats j118 was that the mi6 code for the 'fisherman'?#

    That is what Martin Ingram claimed, the same who outed Scappaticci.

    "I don't know if Willie [Willie McGuinness] was working for the Branch or not. But I am 100% convinced that his brother Martin McGuinness is an agent, that the document is 100% authentic and I am 100% convinced he was working for MI6."

  10. John
    on this issue I'd put my 'house' on you. Scap + mcguinness were some safety valve for the Brits for decades.

    Then again...the entire SF leadership are performing 'wonderfully old boy'. Makes you almost feel sorry for Donaldson, I mean, why him and not the rest too?

  11. The john and larry show-

    odd that the two of you would believe a brit tout- ingrame-

    j118- sounds like a pop group-

    you would put your house on it Larry- why not give your money to the worlds starving instead of the bookies-

  12. michaelhenry,
    Martin Ingram was not a Brit tout, he was a member of British army intelligence as well as FRU.
    To date, he has been right about Freddie Scappiticci and several other high profile IRA agents, so why should we assume he is wrong in relation to McGuinness?

  13. Tiarna

    I agree that some in the party are sympathetic to BL but I feel that what they are allowed to do about it is shaped and constrained by the leadership who don’t give a toss whether he lives or dies.

    McGuinness must fail to recognise himself from his old days when he was ordering and directing all the things he now screams ‘traitors’ at others for doing. It is a feature of revolutionary organisations. When revolutionaries flip, they really flip.

  14. michaelhenry

    you are the perfect modern SF member. You must be related to the 3 monkeys. Just be glad the war is over.

  15. Nuala did,n Brian (the dog) Keenan claim that Mc Guinness set him up at a roadblock,and Keenan was no "dissident"he was a lapdog to Adams,anyway are not everyone who are now members of psf touts after all its party policy and hon,one cant be half in half out.

  16. Marty,

    one of the sources for this was Sean O'Callaghan which gives it a tainted quality.

    There are others who claim that Keenan did in fact make the accusation against McGuinness but they claim that it was to cover for Keenan's own carelessness. He disregarded elementary security precautions and lashed out when caught.

    However I was talking to him during a drinking session one day and raised something. He misheard and answered a question I had not asked. He said 'you mean the cunt that set me up.' So even in the 90s he was still holding to the view that somebody had done him over. But he didn't mention anyone by name.

  17. Rory,

    'He could list all the PSF H-Block commemerations going on in my County this month yet he claimed to be utterly unaware of this issue. He was a Belfast man.'

    Nothing too surprising in that.

    'I am beginning to wonder what their motivation can be. Do they want to provoke a violent reaction and bring down Stormont to escape without admitting blame from the bad, bad deal they made?'

    No chance. A senior Brit official once ridiculed them at Stormont by saying they were so happy with their snoiuts in the trough that the only way they would go back to 'terrorism' would be if they were thrown out of Stormont. As Leonard Cohen might have sang it was a long way down.

    'I despair.'

    I used to. Not that hope has replaced despair; just that I am more philosophical about it.

  18. Michaelhenry,

    'Looks like Martin MMcG is putting manners into the p.s.n.i- and the
    dumb cops do not like it.'

    He only called for one release and then after all the releases a woman was arrested. The PSNI are quite happy with the situation I imagine particularly when they have him screaming traitors at people. Why are the cop top brass not screaming traitors at those cops who carried out the raids? They don't have to.

    They can stand bad PR alright. The entire British system in Ireland can - look at the bad PR over Brendan Lillis.

  19. Russian Roulette


    as Nuala implies it would be foolish to dismiss Martin Ingram so easily. However on this one I think he definitely called it wrong.


    'To date, he has been right about Freddie Scapaiticci and several other
    high profile IRA agents, so why should we assume he is wrong in
    relation to McGuinness?'

    I followed the case at the time and was less than impressed with the case made against McGuinness. Here is a link to a Blanket piece I did after it emerged.

  20. Am-

    that brit anti Sinn Feiner ingram
    can't even tell the truth about his own name- that fcuk could not spell Pseudonym-

    ingram is telling anyone daft enough to listen that he is now a Republican- and not just any republican- no this stout fellow is
    a hardliner a purist opposed to Sinn Fein-

    The real ingram is a gun which spits out death- the brit ingram is a mouth out of which comes blanks-

    mouths out blanks-

  21. Alec,

    this piece was cited in the Belfast Telegraph. I guess you are right in that we are reaching somebody with this message.