News Letter
8 April 2012

**See also: Ó Cuív adds to calls for prisoner’s release

THE growing campaign to release convicted IRA gunman Gerry McGeough could encourage dissident republicans, according to one of his victims.

Former postman and Ulster Defence Regiment part-timer Samuel Brush says the “bleeding hearts” supporting calls for McGeough’s release are sending the “wrong message to would-be terrorists”.

Mr Brush, a serving DUP councillor in Dungannon and South Tyrone, was shot and wounded during a murder attempt in 1981.

At a trial last year, 53-year-old McGeough was found guilty of possessing firearms with intent and being a member of the IRA.

Although only required to serve two years of his 22-year sentence under the terms of the Good Friday and Weston Park agreements, campaigners have lobbied relentlessly for his immediate release.

His four-year trial and subsequent appeal for mercy have cost the taxpayer almost a quarter of a million pounds in legal aid to date.

Among the high-profile figures calling for McGeough’s release is Galway TD and former Fianna Fail deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv, who said he didn’t object to McGeough facing a court but added: “Once he had turned away from violence it is not serving the peace process for him to be incarcerated.

“I understand there are precedents in Northern Ireland, where I understand other IRA members were not imprisoned.”

Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew has also said her party would continue to fight for McGeough’s release.

“Since his imprisonment we have consistently raised his arrest with both the British and Irish governments alongside meeting Mr McGeough to offer our support while he is imprisoned,” she said.

“We will continue to raise this issue at all levels.”

Mr Brush described the campaign as a “slap in the face to victims” of terrorism.

“It always gives the impression that they were justified in what they did and to me that sends out absolutely the wrong message to would-be terrorists,” he said.

“A serious amount of money has been wasted for all the length of time he would have to serve.

“What he has done is abuse the system of legal aid in my opinion.

“There are a lot of bleeding hearts seemingly out there as far as his situation is concerned but there was no sign of those bleeding hearts for 30 years as far as my situation was concerned.

“To me this encourages them. If you know that at the end of your campaign, and you stop it, then whatever charges you face you will only serve a minimum sentence, if any.”

Mr Brush said he had maintained an interest in the legal proceedings throughout and feels the judiciary has been correct in its rulings against McGeough.

He said: “He applied for the Royal Prerogative of Mercy but that was rejected.

“Then he tried to get out for his daughter’s confirmation and that was rejected.”

And he added: “I think if a person gets 20 years, or five years, whatever the offence, it appears they only serve two with the rest of the time on licence.

“It was one of the big mistakes of the Good Friday Agreement.”