Northern Ireland's Department of Justice confirmed this evening that a 59-year-old prisoner is to be transferred from Maghaberry Prison to hospital for medical assessment.

The SDLP and Sinn Fein have been arguing that Brendan Lillis needs urgent specialist medical care and could die unless he receives it.

Mr Lillis, from West Belfast, was jailed in 1977 for possessing explosives and he was released in 1993 under licence.

That was revoked two years ago when he was charged in connection with a tiger kidnapping.

He never went through a trial on those charges because a judge ruled his medical condition made him unfit to do so. But he has been kept in Maghaberry Prison since.

Mr Lillis has chronic arthritis and in prison he is confined to bed. He is said to weigh around six stone and his general health is worsening.

Up to now a campaign by his partner, Roisin Lynch, to have him hospitalised for specialist care and released from prison have failed.