Brendan Lillis – A Humanitarian Issue

May 5, 2011

“Trying To Save Brendan’s Life”

Brendan Lillis, a 59 year old prisoner from West Belfast is currently desperately ill in the medical wing of the notorious Maghaberry prison in County Antrim. He suffers from the intensely painful and progressive disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis which due to other medical complications has seen him unable to move from his bed for 14 months and his weight has dropped to a perilous 6 stones (38.1 Kilos !). Due to a series of serious infections and medication which has compromised his immune system, Mr Lillis has been unable to eat, sleep or hold down even liquids for a period close to a month and is constant agony. In short, his health has deteriorated to such an extent that his partner Roisin, who is his only contact with the outside world, fears that he will die in his prison bed!

Mr Lillis was an Irish Republican political prisoner who had been released on license but unfortunately was arrested for an attempted robbery over a year ago. Despite being judged unfit to stand trial due to his desperate medical condition, Mr Lillis is still being held in Maghaberry prison ‘on license’ due to his previous conviction for political charges and is in a Catch 22 situation where he can be held indefinitely at the ‘pleasure’ of the British ‘Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr Owen Patterson, M.P. With the ‘Secretary of State’ having the power to release Mr Lillis, only public pressure will convince him to allow this prisoner out of prison to receive the medical treatment he so badly needs and to spend his remaining days with his family in a non-prison environment.

Mr Lillis’ case is a purely humanitarian issue but it is complicated by his political antecedents. Ankylosing Spondylitis, the condition that Mr Lillis suffers from is an intensely painful condition that begins with a curvature of the spine and it has now got to the stage where he is in extreme pain 24 hours a day with little relief and sub-standard medical care. TheMaghaberry prison ‘hospital’ is little more than a ‘sick-bay’ which is guarded by Unionist prison warders who would be antagonistic to Mr Lillis due to his Irish Republican past.

Roisin, Mr Lillis’ partner, is understandably beside herself with anxiety and is desperately looking for help with her fledgling campaign to have Brendan treated with dignity:

I am trying my best to highlight this but sadly I’m working alone and don’t have much experience this area but im trying my best……For the 1st 10 weeks he had no visits because he couldn’t get into a wheelchair and they wouldn’t let me into the jail, after a lot of debates with the jail i was eventually allowed to visit him in his cell which i have done since then. as you all no Brendan is now in a precarious situation and if he doesn’t get released from jail i am in no doubts he will die soon.

Mr Lillis’ case should be a concern for everyone on humanitarian grounds alone and it would appear that only public pressure will make the Secretary of State notice the plight of a seriously ill 59 year old man inMaghaberry prison who is in constant pain and whose weight has plummeted to a dangerous 6 stone.

Please sign the petition because he is now on a heart machine and needs real hospital care:​/releaseBrendylilli
Open group —

19 Responses to “Brendan Lillis – A Humanitarian Issue”

  1. Boeykens Says:

    IRELAND’S SHAME AS EUROPEAN TORTURE COMMITTEE PRESENTS DAMNING INDICTMENT OF IRISH PRISON SYSTEM’s-shame-as-european-torture-committee-presents-damning-indictment-of-irish-prison-system/

    The fifth report on Ireland from the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Degrading Treatment (CPT), published today (Thursday, 10th Feb 2011), is the most critical yet, and a damning indictment of a prison system that is failing to meet the most basic human rights standards of safe and humane custody. The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign organisation, is calling on all election candidates to take heed of this national disgrace and commit to rectifying the many human rights issues identified in the report, including slopping out, overcrowding, escalating violence, patchy provision of health care including mental health care, and above all, the failure to provide safe custody.

    During the CPT’s last visit to Ireland, which took place from 25th January to 5thFebruary 2010, the Committee also examined detention in Garda stations and psychiatric institutions. However, the bulk of the report is given over to detailing the appalling human rights issues in Ireland’s prisons. The critical issues of prison healthcare and complaints receive particularly serious censure.

    Speaking on the publication of the report, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:

    “This report further documents a prison system in crisis, with clear failures in many important aspects of the system – including in relation to healthcare, prisoner protection and investigation of complaints against staff. Undoubtedly some of the problems identified here stem from chronic prison overcrowding and inadequate penal policies, but many of the most serious issues highlight failures at an operational level to meet the most basic standards of safe and humane custody.”

    “This report shows a litany of broken commitments and inaction in relation to chronic problems over the past two decades. There has been a failure of leadership to address the problems within our prisons. The bottom line is that prisoners and the general public are left with a prison system that is unacceptable and which has exposed Ireland to international shame. The next Government must prioritise addressing the problems in our prisons, and commit to getting prisoner numbers down.”

    There were 3,150 prisoners in custody when the CPT visited in October 2006; this number had reached 4,100 on the occasion of the CPT’s 2010 visit to Ireland. On 25th January 2011, prisoner numbers were 4,541. Efforts being taken by the Irish Prison Service to address the issues cannot succeed unless Government take control of the overcrowding situation, which frustrates any attempts to tackle the serious problems outlined in this report.

    Individual Prisons

    Cork, Mountjoy and Limerick female prisons come in for particular criticism:

    Cork: the CPT found plastic bags being used as toilets (paragraph 41), unacceptable dirty segregation cells (96) and inadequate visiting facilities (99). Prisoners also reported only being able to access one shower and change of underwear each week. The State’s response to these criticisms referred to the proposed new prison at Kilworth – a plan which is now acknowledged to be suspended indefinitely.

    Limerick female prison: the CPT found women having to sleep two to a bed because of chronic overcrowding. They also found blocked showers and flooding in cells (42)

    Mountjoy prison: the persistent problems of overcrowding in chronic conditions were reinforced by the CPT, who found the prison in an overall poor state of repair (45). The criteria for placement at Mountjoy for those prisoners not deemed vulnerable was “available space, or even floor space”.

    St. Patrick’s Institution: The CPT was concerned at the length of time prisoners were spending in their cells and the high number of prisoners not engaged in any meaningful activity (52)

  2. Boeykens Says:’s-shame-as-european-torture-committee-presents-damning-indictment-of-irish-prison-system/

    Critical Issues

    Among other issues, the Committee found:

    Complaints: Some of the most serious concerns in the report relate to allegations of mistreatment of prisoners by staff, where the Committee points to inadequate investigation of complaints, poor recording of alleged incidents, and inadequate or no medical examination of prisoners who make complaints. (30-31; 34) Clearly there is a major deficit of oversight and accountability, and this report highlights how an independent system of investigation is needed, similar to that which now prevails for Garda custody. (102-105)
    Prison health care: the CPT found inadequate provision of prison healthcare, recording that in some prisons doctors were not fulfilling contracted hours, even where these hours were already wholly inadequate. Serious concerns also expressed about prescribing methadone at Cork, Midlands, Mountjoy (74). Some particularly worrying incidents were reported in relation to inadequate treatment of a HIV positive prisoner (63); of a prisoner being chained to staff during medical treatment in the Midlands (65); and of a prisoner being forced to undergo withdrawal from heroin while subjected to slopping out in Cork (75). Overall the keeping of medical records was found to be inadequate (67), with prisoners not receiving medical examination on admission at Cork or Mountjoy (68 and 70) – this has very serious implications for investigating any allegations of mistreatment.
    Risk Assessment: Across the prison system, the Committee found no basic admission or induction policy in place (except at Midlands prison) including no cell-share risk assessment procedure – which is especially worrying given serious incidents, including homicide, in shared cells in recent years.
    Slopping out: the CPT rejected the State’s contention that toilet patrols operated effectively, and reported that they found prisoners were often not allowed out of cells at night and reported being subjected to verbal abuse when they asked for access to toilets (48)
    Psychiatric care: the CPT found mental health care to be inadequate, particularly in Cork where there was poor record keeping, over-reliance on medication and dirty observation cells. They report on one case in Wheatfield prison, where a prisoner was held in a special observation cell for 6 weeks and worsened in condition during that time.
    Protection and punishment: The report contains a shocking description of the high numbers on 23-hour lock up for protection (56), including high numbers in St. Patrick’s Institution (57). The CPT also found improper use of special observation cells for discipline (81), including an incident where a disciplinary hearing took place in a special observation cell while prisoner in underpants. It found routine use of de facto solitary confinement being imposed for up to 60 days, which is illegal under the Prisons Act.
    Racism: concerns raised in the report which had not appeared in previous reports include accounts of allegations of racism against Travellers and foreign prisoners by staff and other prisoners (29, 32.)
    Prison Figures:

    On 25th Jan 2011, the prison population was 4,541 (Source: Irish Prison Service)
    On 2nd February 2011, there were 41 boys in St Patrick’s Institution: 6 sixteen-year olds; 35 seventeen-year olds. (Source: Irish Prison Service)
    On 17th Dec 2010, 1,003 men were required to slop out in Irish prisons: 515 in Mountjoy Prison; 299 prisoners in Cork prison, all in shared cells (sharing with 1-2 others); 51 in Portlaoise Prison; 99 in Limerick Prison (male). (Source: Dáil Question, 27th Jan 2011 )
    On 26th January 2011, there were 250 prisoners on 23-hour or more lock-up (for reasons of protection); 26 on 22-23 hour lock-up; 164 on 20-22 hr lock-up (including 57 in St Patrick’s Institution) and 60 on 18-20 hr lock-up. (Source:Dáil Question, 27th January 2011)

  3. Boeykens Says:


    press release Friday February 18, 2011 22:16 by RNU PRO – Republican Network for Unity (RNU)

    REPUBLICAN NETWORK for UNITY (RNU) Chairperson/ Cathaoirleach, CARL REILLY has expressed concern about the continued imprisonment of West Belfast man, Brendan Lillis.

    Mr. Reilly said; “Brendan remains in the prison hospital at Maghaberry Gaol where he suffers from a chronic medial condition called ankylosing spondylitis, which cause his spine to fuse. At present, he is confined to bed and his condition has taken a turn for the worst. His weight has plummeted to six stone and his rapidly deteriorating health is causing huge concern to his family and friends.

    Brendan is a former Political Prisoner who already served a lengthy sentence behind bars for Republican activities. Therefore, his continued incarceration is a clear demonstration of the shameful nature of British rule in Ireland”.

    Mr. Reilly concluded; “RNU urge everyone Republican or otherwise, to join our call for Brendan to be released immediately on humanitarian grounds so he can receive appropriate medical attention in a proper medical facility”.
    Related Link:

  4. sam millar Says:

    Glad to support all POWs.

  5. Diarmuid Says:

    Hope Brendan gets justice soon. Also letting you know that it was really hard to find the petition on this from the posted links.

  6. kruitvat Says:

    Thanks Caroline and Diarmuid.

    Friends of Brendan Lillis

    Brendan Lillis (59) is a former Political Prisoner who served a lengthy sentence behind bars for Republican activities. He was released from Long Kesh in 1994 and returned to his West Belfast home.

    In October, 2009, Brendy was again arrested in connection with an attempted robbery in County Derry. Within hours of his arrest, the British Secretary of State revoked his Life Sentence licence and he was returned to gaol.

    Last month, the High Court in Belfast decided that Brendy should not stand trial and all charges were dropped against him. Despite the ruling, he remains in the prison hospital at Maghaberry Gaol.

    He suffers from a chronic medial condition called, ankylosing spondylitis which cause the spine to fuse. At present, he is confined to bed and his condition has taken a turn for the worst. His weight has also plummeted to six stone and his state is causing huge concern to his friends and family.

    The Friends of Brendan Lillis is a support group. Our primary aim is to have Brendy immediately released to ensure he recieves the proper medical attention he deserves. His continued imprisonment is wrong and we call for his release on humanitarian grounds.
    Open group —

  7. stephen brady Says:

    respect dis man, hes no criminal

  8. Achusla Clarke Says:


  9. kruitvat Says:

    We are working with Open Letters.

    Is there someone who can write an Open Letter to the Irish minister of Justice ? We will help to share this letter

  10. Alex Fleming Says:

    This is inhumane!

  11. peter van ooijen Says:

    this happens also in the netherlands,with erwin lensink, a dutch man who had trow a waxine candlelight against the golden carriage from the dutch queen beatrix on queensday last year. he spend 6 months in for arrest and now they wants to send him in a phych hospital for a research. he was a member off prorepublica.

  12. peter van ooijen Says:

    nothing have change at all in ireland, and we have now in the netherlands a liberall right kapitalist goverment, luck we have the dutch socialist party.
    keep up the good work dear friends,and humanity rights for the irish Pows.

  13. breda smyth Says:

    Thinking of Brendan. You have my full support

  14. sean kelly Says:


  15. […] Comment! "Trying To Save Brendan's Life" Brendan Lillis, a 59 year old prisoner from West Belfast is currently desperately ill in the medical wing of the notorious Maghaberry prison in County Antrim. He suffers from the intensely painful and progressive disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis which due to other medical complications has seen him unable to move from his bed for 14 months and his weight has dropped to a perilous 6 stones (38.1 Kilos !). Due t … Read More […]

  16. Dr. Partridge Says:

    A bit of humanity is in order here!

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