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Provos slam Felons Club for banning fund-raising for dying Long Kesh man

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday World)

Veteran IRA members have blasted two republican clubs for banning campaigners for a dying ex-Blanketman from collecting money for him on their premises.

Roisin Allsopp, whose partner Brendan Lillis is dying in Maghaberry jail, was barred from fund-raising in the Felons and the Prisoners Defence Fund Club – the PD – in Andersonstown.

Allsopp said every other club and pub in West Belfast had allowed her to collect money to help fund her campaign to free Lillis. Some republicans for both clubs to be boycotted because of their "cold-heartedness".

Ex-hunger striker and former Sinn Féin press officer, Gerard Hodgins, said: "These clubs were set up to help prisoners. I'm disgusted at them. As an IRA member, Brendan Lillis gave his all to the republican movement and paid the price.

"He was imprisoned during the worst years of the Blanket protest. Now the people he sacrificed so much for have turned their backs on him. I hope these two clubs choke on their profits."

Lillis (59) is suffering from a chronic form of arthritis that affects the spine. He's been bed-ridden for 600 days and is currently in Maghaberry's hospital wing. He weighs five-and-a-half stone and doctors have warned he could have only a short time to live.

Sentenced to life in 1977 for explosive charges, he was freed on licence after 16 years. His license was revoked in 2009 when he was arrested on robbery charges.

But while he's been deemed to ill to stand trial, the Life Sentence Review Board won't release him from jail.

Last week, Allsopp and Lillis's supporters staged a four-day hunger-strike in west Belfast. During the fast, Allsopp walked around local bars fund-raising.

Ex-IRA prisoner Alec McCrory, who served 14 years in the H-Blocks, said: "Brendan Lillis is a felon. It is a sad day when the Felons' Club wont help him."

In a statement, the Felons' denied it had shunned Lillis. The club said it had "a long, distinguished history of generosity and while we seek no recognition we are lauded the length and breadth of Ireland".

It claimed Allsopp had been banned from collecting money because no committee members were there to grant their permission when she visited the club which "had to abide by the rules".

Gerard Hodgins said: "I've never heard the like of it. Myself and others collected for prisoners in the Felons many times without applying for permission from committee members. We collected to help pay for the plane to take home the bodies of three IRA volunteers killed in Gibraltar without making any advance written request."

Another republican went even further, calling for the Felons and PD to be boycotted.

August 8, 2011

This article appeared in the August 7, 2011 edition of the Sunday World.

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