Billy Irving’s family lobbies parliament
THE FAMILY of a Campbeltown pirate hunter locked up in a ‘hell-hole’ Indian prison learned minutes before stepping into a parliamentary lobby that his appeal judge, who had previously stepped down declaring the case ‘too complicated’, has taken it on again.
The family also took a 400,000-strong petition to 10 Downing Street last Thursday, four years to the day since ex-Grammar school pupil Billy Irving was detained alongside five other British ex-servicemen.
The men, known as the Chennai Six, were working as armed guards onboard the MV Seaman Guard Ohio when their ship strayed into Indian waters.
They were accused of carrying illegal arms and arrested by Indian authorities in October 2013 and sentenced to five years in January 2016, but continue to deny the charges.
Billy’s fiancée, Yvonne MacHugh, told the Courier: ‘We don’t really know if it’s good news or bad [that the judge has taken on the case again] as obviously he’s already said he’s incompetent of passing a judgement but within a couple of days he has decided he can.
‘As it stands, we don’t really know what’s happening.’
Speaking in the lobby, Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara said: ‘The situation Billy and his shipmates find themselves in is absolutely intolerable.
‘The judicial proceedings have descended into complete farce, with judges resigning from the case one week only to reappoint themselves the next.’
Mr O’Hara paid tribute to the work of the families, particularly the campaigning carried out by Yvonne, who visited Downing Street with the couple’s son William, Billy’s parents Jim and Margaret, his brother Colin and Yvonne’s sister Jacqui to hand in the petition calling for the men’s release.
Yvonne said: ‘Despite all the emotion, stress, anxiety and lack of sleep, we did the Chennai Six proud.
‘We woke up knowing more people now know our story, they know of this injustice and they now want to do something about it. Together we will get them home.
‘Now let’s begin the campaign to bring them home for Christmas.’
The British Government says it has raised the issue with India 50 times, but the families want more action.
Left to right, Billy Irving’s brother Colin and father Jim, Brendan O’Hara MP, Billy’s son William and fiancée Yvonne MacHugh, and Yvonne’s sister Jacqui hand in the petition.