Public pressure is key to Billy’s release
I AM not a fan of hot climates and last Sunday, as I waited in a long slow-moving queue under the blazing Mediterranean sun, getting cooked while waiting to check in for a delayed return flight, my indignation was on the rise.
The discomfort was growing, as was my frustration at the lack of information being given to passengers. We had been waiting for a nearly an hour at this stage with no signs of resolution.
Wilting in the heat, I felt justified in feeling angry and impatient, as well as worried about missing our connecting flight home.
That was until I had a look at my Facebook page and at the top of my newsfeed was a photograph of a hand-written letter from Billy Irving to Prime Minister Theresa May.
For three and a half years now Billy has been feeling his life pass by in the sweltering heat of a disgusting Chennai prison cell with no clean water to drink, no sanitation and no prospect of freedom. After reading the letter, my own insignificant discomforts and frustrations were immediately put in their place.
Billy’s plight has been covered well by this paper, by some parts of the wider media, by a strong Facebook campaign and by his family, who have been working tirelessly trying to make progress in bringing this heart-rending tale to an end.
I wrote about the injustice of the situation in an article before Christmas, and I am very sorry to say that since then almost nothing has changed and Billy and his 34 colleagues are no closer to gaining release.
I laid out my interpretation of the facts then and will re-post that piece on Facebook for anyone who would like to read the prelude to this article.
There is no clear way to a resolution, but one definite possibility to bring about Billy’s release is direct intervention by the British Government.
Regardless of the complexities of the case and despite the political quagmire in which they are caught up, if there was enough political will, the British Government would do what it takes to get the six British citizens released.
All over the country are newly and re-elected councillors, and on June 8 there is a general election. Now is a good time for the public, by all means possible, to press upon elected council representatives and those seeking parliamentary election and re-election to add their weight and will, pushing to the highest level of government the urgency and injustice of this situation.
Politics is an intricate game but there is no doubt that pressure from the public – especially at times of election – is a clear route to get issues dealt with. Billy will soon be seeing another birthday pass by with no prospect of being reunited with his fiancée Yvonne MacHugh and young son William. That boy is growing up without a father and a family’s existence is being ripped apart.
The conventional legal route is not working, so by writing letters, sending emails, talking to door-stepping candidates, writing and sharing Facebook statuses, tweeting and telling friends, together we can all help to bring Billy back.
Billy Irving with fiancee Yvonne MacHugh and son William