Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 10 October 2015

GAA star on UK stag trip 'is AWOL British soldier'

By Majella O'Sullivan

Published 04/04/2014

Tyrone Football Press Night, Tyrone GAA Headquarters, Garvaghey, Co. Tyrone 19/8/2013
Matthew Donnelly
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton
Tyrone Football Press Night, Tyrone GAA Headquarters, Garvaghey, Co. Tyrone 19/8/2013 Matthew Donnelly Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

A Gaelic footballer is to face a hearing before British Army officers to explain why he went absent without leave (AWOL) from the British Army 10 years ago.

Brian McMahon (30) was informed by police who boarded his plane at Newcastle Airport on March 21 that he was wanted for questioning by the British Army.


He had flown to the city to attend the stag party of a friend.


The building contractor from Killarney, Co Kerry, who is a well-known footballer with Dr Crokes, joined the British Army 12 years ago but left after two years, without having been discharged.


Already he has been brought before one military hearing when he was handed over to officers at Catterick Barracks in North Yorkshire but faces a second hearing in the next few days.


Mr McMahon – who got married in December – is now in Liverpool where he is speaking to a solicitor ahead of the next military hearing.


He says he's mystified as to why this has happened now, as he has travelled to the UK on numerous occasions since he left the army and even worked in London for a while.


"This is just a paper trail. I have worked and paid taxes in London. How this is being flagged now is a mystery," he told 'Kerry's Eye' newspaper.


"There's a hearing next week but we don't know how it's going to be handled, not until the day. There is a possibility you have to stay for three or four days in army custody for punishment, it's within their rights, but no one has suggested to me that anything like that is going to happen."


Mr McMahon said he would be making the case that he had family and a business in Ireland.


"If I was from the UK, this could take several weeks, but I want to stay here and get it sorted out once and for all," he said, adding that if he had known he was still wanted, he would have gone to the UK voluntarily and sought a discharge.


He declined to comment any further yesterday, and said that he and his family were now trying to put the matter behind them and move on.


This is the second time Mr McMahon was approached by police in relation to his absence.


On the previous occasion six years ago, he was approached as he attempted to board a ferry at Pembroke in Wales but returned home after army officers failed to turn up to meet him at an appointed time.


His friend and business partner, local councillor John Joe Culloty, described Mr McMahon as a decent person who had never done any harm to anyone.


"He joined the army when he was 18 and paid his way out and now because of some paperwork technicality he's paying the price," Mr Culloty said.

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