Belfast Telegraph

Sammy Brush: 40 attacks yet tormenters remain free - victimised councillor says thugs are shielded by a climate of fear

By Chris Kilpatrick

An onslaught of sectarian attacks on the home of a veteran unionist councillor has been described as "beyond the realms of civilisation".

DUP councillor Sammy Brush's property was targeted for the 40th time at the weekend, sparking revulsion at the relentless intimidation against him.

Residents of Ballygawley, Co Tyrone, have been urged to pass on any information they have on who might be behind the long-running campaign to police.

Mr Brush believes he knows who is responsible and lambasted nationalist and republican politicians, who he claimed had failed to support him.

The 72-year-old grandfather said the conviction of prominent republican and Sinn Fein member Gerry McGeough on charges of attempting to murder him in 1981 had led to a surge of attacks from rogue elements.

Last night a Sinn Fein councillor in the area said he condemned any attacks on elected representatives, but denied republicans were involved.

There have been two attacks in the past fortnight, including one on Saturday night when a digger is believed to have been used to push his car along the village's main street.

"It's annoying, there's no doubt about it," Mr Brush said. "There are people in the village who know who's doing these things, but are perhaps too intimidated to say anything."

DUP mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone Roger Burton described the harassment of Mr Brush as "an attack on the entire community", and he called on police to do more to try to prevent further incidents.

"This is beyond the realms of civilisation," he said. "It's scandalous. The police have to do more, and there must be somebody within the community knows who is behind it. They need to come forward and help police."

Mr Brush blamed republicans from outside Ballygawley for the attacks, but Sinn Fein councillor Phelim Gildernew told this newspaper he believed Mr Brush had been singled out by "louts".

"Sammy Brush said it is sectarianism," he said. "I don't think it is republicans who are responsible. I've condemned the attacks on several occasions, and do so again."

Mr Brush believes republicans were angered by the arrest of McGeough in 2007 and subsequent proceedings. There is no suggestion of McGeough's involvement in the recent spate of attacks.

Mr Brush, a former UDR soldier, was shot and injured in an IRA ambush in 1981. He was wounded during the murder bid but managed to return fire at his attackers. Ex-IRA man McGeough was convicted of his attempted murder in 2011.

Mr Brush said the high-profile case sparked the wave of attacks on his property. "I have my suspicions over who is doing it," he said. "But I'll not be going. I couldn't give in to those people. It's hard to put up with what's going on but I couldn't live with myself if I walked away from it."

Asked what message he would send to those responsible, Mr Brush said it would be a waste of time, and he was scathing of nationalist politicians' response to his plight.

"I feel certainly the SDLP and Sinn Fein have not been vocal enough in their condemnation," he said. "If I was a foreign national being attacked they would be shouting from the rooftops."

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said: "This is appalling, and it seems to be sustained and vengeful. It is totally unacceptable that in a democratic society councillor Brush should suffer such a systematic pattern of abuse and harassment, and damage to his property"

Ulster Unionist MLA and member of Stormont's Justice Committee Tom Elliott added: "These continuing attacks on Sammy Brush are despicable. Is this what the peace process is all about, where people aren't even allowed to live in their own villages without fear of attack?"

Alliance justice spokesman Stewart Dickson said he was "sickened" by the spate of incidents.

Police have appealed for anybody with information on the attacks to come forward.

Profile

Former UDR soldier Sammy Brush was shot and injured as he was doing his rounds as a postman while off-duty in June 1981 in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone. He had been elected to Dungannon District Council just a few weeks previously and served three terms until 1993. He returned to the council in May 2005 to represent the Blackwater electoral area, and served as deputy mayor in 2009.

Incidents from the long catalogue of intimidation endured by Sammy Brush

MARCH 2007: A heavy concrete block is hurled though the windscreen of his vehicle.

APRIL 2008: The tyres of Sammy's car are slashed while it is parked outside his home.

MAY 2008: Extensive damage is caused to the paintwork of a vehicle belonging to Mr Brush. It is the second such attack within the space of a fortnight.

DECEMBER 2008: A shed at the rear of his property is set alight. The shed, which houses an oil tank and is only 12 feet from his home, is completely gutted by the blaze. A litter of stray kittens, who had made their home in the shed, is believed to have died in the fire.

DECEMBER 2009: Sammy's car is vandalised twice in the space of three days. Thugs rip the wing mirrors off the vehicle and the windows are also smashed.

NOVEMBER 2012: A double-glazed panel on the front door of Mr Brush's Ballygawley home is smashed by unknown attackers.

AUGUST 2014: He is awoken by a sudden rattle at the window of his home and sees a man kicking a beer keg against his car, damaging the bonnet.

AUGUST 2014: Sammy says a vehicle, which he believes was a digger, was used to move his car from outside his home and push it down the street into another vehicle.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph