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Masked loyalists pointed gun at Thomas O'Hara in 2003

Gary McDonald with a friend leaving court in Belfast in 2006 after he received a jail sentence for his role in an armed roadblock in Portglenone Picture: Alan Lewis
John Monaghan

THOMAS O’Hara, who was yesterday suspended by Sinn Féin, had a gun pointed at him as he passed through an illegal armed loyalist roadblock in July 2003.

It took place in Portglenone, Co Antrim, when masked men attempted to stop both himself and his father in separate incidents on the same night.

A report from the subsequent court case stated: “The barrel of the gun was but a matter of feet from Mr O’Hara (junior). The gunman was wearing a balaclava... not surprisingly, Mr O’Hara was considerably alarmed by this and he accelerated his vehicle.

“Both men jumped out of the path of the car and he heard shouting and two loud bangs coming from the direction of the gunman. Mr O’Hara believed that he had been fired on.”

In 2009, Thomas O’Hara senior recalled the episode, saying that his son, right, who was aged 18 at the time, had asked him to come and collect him.

“He had to drive through them. Then he went to a friend’s house and asked me to come and pick him up,” Mr O’Hara said.

“When I saw them I thought it was Thomas’s friends. There were three boys standing on the road. I stopped and they said: “What are you doing here?”

He added: “They put a gun to my head and I heard them fire two shots at me.”

After Mr O’Hara managed to drive away, the three men also approached another vehicle and pointed the rifle at that car, but fled when the occupants identified themselves as police officers.

The Irish News revealed last year that Gary McDonald, the election agent for the TUV’s Mid-Ulster candidate Gareth Ferguson in the 2015 Westminster election, spent a year in jail for his role in the incident.

Thomas O’Hara junior told The Irish News last year that what had happened was “still raw” and it was a case of “double standards”.

Who is Thomas O'Hara?

“I think it’s a downright disgrace that the TUV say they are standing up for victims. But it seems that if you’re Catholic, you don’t matter,” he said.

The TUV defended Mr McDonald, describing the incident “a foolish escapade” and someone who had “paid his debt to society”.

Following The Irish News article last year, Daithí McKay tweeted that the TUV defence of Mr McDonald “shows rank hypocrisy of Jim Allister and Spad (Special Advisers) Bill”.

Stephen Maternaghan, Gary McDonald and his brother John, all of Innishrush Road in the village, admitted using a deactivated AK47 assault rife to stop motorists.

At their trial, the trio claimed they had been protecting an Orange arch which had previously been burnt down and described their actions as “out of character”, with alcohol consumption also cited as a factor.

The men were given three year suspended jail sentences in October 2005, sparking outrage among nationalist politicians.

Suspending the prison terms, Judge Kevin Finnegan QC said that the three men would not have acted as they did “in a normal society”.

However, in 2006 the Appeal Court ruled that those sentences were too lenient and imposed a two year custodial term on each defendant.

Due to the 50 per cent remission policy, the trio served just a year in jail, with a further 12 months on probation.

As part of their sentences the three men were each ordered to pay a total of £500 to Mr O’Hara and his son but in 2009 Mr O’Hara senior said they had still not received any of the compensation.

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