Pub­lic pres­sure is key to Billy’s re­lease

The Oban Times - - LETTERS - AN­GUS MACPHAIL an­gus­macphail@ya­

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

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