THE partner of a republican prisoner released from Maghaberry on humanitarian grounds has said the jail’s health system is “not fit” to care for a terminally-ill man convicted of murdering two soldiers.
Roisin Lynch, whose partner Brendan Lillis was released by Parole Commissioners last year, told the MAIL that conditions inside the jail’s hospital are so poor she expects Brian Shiver’s life-expectancy to be “cut in half”.
On Friday the 46 year-old was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for the murders of soldiers Mark Quinsey (23) and Patrick Azimkar (21). They were shot dead by the Real IRA in March 2009 as they collected pizza outside Masserene Barracks.
Belfast Crown Court heard that doctors believed Shivers, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, has only a few years left to live.
Speaking to the Mid-Ulster Mail, Ms Lynch, who campaigned along with Sinn Fein and SDLP MLA’s for her seriously ill partner’s release, said she does not believe claims the prison is equipped to care for Shiver’s condition.
“People need to look at the bigger picture here,” she said.
“Maghaberry has no-where near the right health care for a terminally ill man such as Brian Shivers who needs constant exercise, physio and doctors. The only thing Maghaberry has is a dentist and pyschologist.”
Ms Lynch has openly criticised health care provision within the high security prison after her partner of 12 years was jailed in 2009. 57 year-old Brendan Lillis was sentenced to life in 1977 on explosives charges, but was freed on licence in 1993. He was arrested in October 2009 on robbery charges and was told he would have to serve the rest of his original life sentence. He was deemed unfit to stand trial because of his health which eventually led to his release in August last year. Mr Lillis suffers from arthritic condition ankylosing spondylitis - a type of arthritis that causes the spine to fuse.
“Getting a physio in Maghaberry is like applying for credit,” added Ms Lynch.
“Paper work has to be filled out and it has to be passed onto the Belfast Trust.”
“It took Brendan 22 weeks to get his first appointment with a physio. 22 weeks to get a one hour appointment, which had to be cancelled because the physios couldn’t carry out the treatment on Brendan’s hospital bed because it was stuck to the wall.
“For months Brendan had to physically throw himself from his bed onto the floor and crawl to the toilet because his condition was getting worse and worse and he was receiving no treatment.”
Roisin added: “Everything in Maghaberry is a slow process. On the political wing where Brian will be it’s 23 hour lock up. Someone with cystic fibrosis needs to have fresh air, needs to have physio and needs to have proper health care treatment. Maghaberry can’t deliver that. He won’t even have a window open in there.”
Ms Lynch added: “Brendan was promised everything but received nothing. He dropped down to five stone and was bed ridden. If the decision was not taken last year to release him he would be dead today.
“Brian will have less than half of his life span in there. Yes he is a prisoner, but legally he is 100 per cent a patient first.”
Sentencing Shivers on Friday Mr Justice Anthony Hart he was satisfied at present there were “appropriate” facilities in the prison to care for Shivers’ condition.
He said: “The appropriate approach for the court to take is to proceed on the basis that such matters are irrelevant to sentencing, provided that the court is satisfied that there are available appropriate facilities within the prison to allow for such conditions to be properly dealt with.
The judge added: “Should it be the case that Shivers’ condition deteriorates to such an extent that it may no longer be appropriate for him to be kept in prison that is a matter to be decided if and when it arises by the prison authorities in the first place, and ultimately by the minister of justice as the minister responsible for the prison service and the exercise of the Royal Prerogative.