Battling for a Royal pardon... the ex-IRA gunman convicted of a murder bid 30 years ago
A former IRA member convicted last month of attempting to murder a UDR man 30 years ago has been refused a Royal pardon.
Gerry McGeough, from Co Tyrone, will be seeking a judicial review of the Northern Ireland Office’s decision not to grant him the pardon, which has been given to dozens of other IRA members so they do not serve sentences for historical crimes.
Lawyers for McGeough (52), a school teacher and former high-ranking member of Sinn Fein, wrote to the NIO seeking the pardon immediately after he was convicted four weeks ago of attempting to murder Sammy Brush in 1981.
McGeough’s lawyer Peter Corrigan said that in correspondence the NIO had categorically denied his client a pardon.
Mr Corrigan said a judicial review would be sought on the basis that under the Good Friday Agreement, McGeough was entitled to the same treatment as other ex-paramilitaries.
Sinn Fein has allegedly arranged secret pardons for many wanted IRA men. However, McGeough left the party after a fallout, claiming that it had abandoned republicanism.
He was due to be sentenced by Belfast Crown Court yesterday. Members of militant republican groups the 32 County Sovereignty Movement — including former Old Bailey bomber and IRA hunger-striker Marian Price — and the Republican Network for Unity were in the public gallery to support him.
Heavily armed police in riot gear gathered in an adjacent room in advance of the sentencing. However, McGeough didn’t appear in court after suffering chest pains just before he was due to be strip-searched leaving Maghaberry jail.
Strip-searches are mandatory for all inmates entering and departing the prison. Republican prisoners are currently resisting the procedure, which means they are then forcibly strip-searched by prison officers.
Mr Corrigan said: “My client had a previous heart attack and had further chest surgery last year. He was due to be forcibly strip-searched this morning but became ill in Maghaberry.
“He saw a doctor in the jail and was then transferred to an outside hospital where he is currently receiving medical treatment.”
McGeough’s sentencing has been deferred for at least four weeks. Mr Brush was shot by two IRA gunmen as he delivered mail near Aughnacloy in 1981. Although injured, he returned fire, wounding McGeough.
Mr Brush, now a DUP councillor, was accompanied to and from court yesterday by detectives.
He said that while he was disappointed sentencing hadn’t taken place, he would return next month.
Under the Good Friday Agreement, McGeough should serve no more than two years in prison.