Unionists uneasy as gunman Gerry McGeough free after two years
The release of the first republican jailed for historical crimes since the Good Friday Agreement was described as “somewhat depressing for the wider community”.
Tom Elliott and other politicians said their thoughts were with Dungannon councillor Sammy Brush as the man convicted of attempting to murder the former UDR man was released from jail yesterday.
Gerry McGeough (54), a former Sinn Fein ard comhairle member, was released following less than two years behind bars.
Mr Elliott, DUP MLA for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, said: “Obviously it (Gerry McGeough’s release) is somewhat depressing for the wider community. And particularly for the likes of Sammy Brush, who was subjected to so much.”
McGeough was convicted in February 2011 of attempting to murder Mr Brush as the UDR member and part-time postman delivered mail near Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 1981.
There was a gunfight and Mr Brush managed to drive his attacker off using his personal protection weapon, wounding him in the process.
‘My thoughts are with Sammy Brush at this time’
The DUP councillor was wounded in the exchange of shots.
He has also been attacked at his home numerous times and had several cars damaged and burnt out.
McGeough was sentenced to 20 years in jail, but under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement would not serve more than two.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Mr Brush said it was just another day and that he was getting on with it.
But Mr Elliott added: “Clearly my thoughts are with Sammy Brush at this time, because he is the one who has been to the fore of this controversy for something that was not of his making.
“Obviously it’s going to be a very hard time for him.”
There was condemnation last year when Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, of which Mr Brush is a member, passed a Sinn Fein motion that called for McGeough's release.
Ross Hussey, West Tyrone UUP MLA, also expressed his support for Mr Brush.
He said: “My thoughts are with Sammy Brush and his family because they clearly will be reflecting now on what happened all those years ago.”
Republicans are due to mark McGeough’s release from Maghaberry Prison with a controversial welcome home party for the ex-IRA man on Friday, which will be addressed by former Noraid publicity director Martin Galvin.
Mr Galvin has denied that the function, which will be held at Quinn’s Corner in Dungannon, is directed against Mr Brush.
Gerry McGeough joined the Provisional IRA’s East Tyrone brigade in 1977, aged 19. After activity in Ireland and Europe he was arrested in August 1988 while crossing the Dutch-German border with two AK47 rifles in his car. He was charged with attacks on the British Army of the Rhine and held for four years in a specially-built German detention centre. His trial in Germany was interrupted by extradition to the United States, where he was charged with attempting to buy surface-to-air-missiles in 1983. He served three years of his sentence in US prisons until his release in 1996, whereupon he was deported to the Republic.
‘I don’t welcome it... but I won’t let it put my head astray’
In his own words... Sammmy Bush, the man who was shot by Gerry McGeough in 1981, talks about his release from jail
It really has been like any other day. I was not thinking on it (Gerry McGeough’s release) today.
I try not to dwell on things, if I can avoid it at all.
I certainly was not looking forward to it today, but it’s the system.
It does not mean I have to agree with it.
The majority of people voted for the Good Friday Agreement, and this is the result of one of the stupid aspects in the Good Friday Agreement, in my opinion. I accept that that’s the way it is.
As I am retired, I am either doing something to do with the council, or I have a farm over at Aughnacloy, a small farm, and I go out there.
I went out there today, but there was nothing you could have done today because of the weather. It’s just been one of those days that the weather has been so bad; unless you really had to go somewhere you wouldn’t.
I was out in the car most of the day.
As usual, in the morning I walked down the street from where I live to get the papers and bread and milk.
I’m going now to a meeting of the (Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council’s) strategic services committee later on.
The police did call me at around 4.30pm.
They said that they had been told to call to tell me that Gerry McGeough had been released today, and that was it. I see that a (former) member of Noraid is coming over to the function at Quinn’s Corner in Dungannon. That does not surprise me.
I do not know if I will remember this day in 10 years’ time.
I do not feel that different from any other day. I have had setbacks and ups and downs in the past.
It’s not something I welcome but it’s not something that’s going to put my head astray.
I have had worse days than this.