Northern Ireland

Prominent republican Gerry McGeough stands by 'traitor' remarks

Republican and leading Hibernian Gerry McGeough has defended controversial remarks made on an American radio station
Republican and leading Hibernian Gerry McGeough has defended controversial remarks made on an American radio station

A HIGH-profile Co Tyrone republican criticised for describing Catholic judges and prosecutors as 'traitors' has defended his comments.

Gerry McGeough last night claimed he was at the centre of a “priest hunt” after unionists hit out at remarks made on American radio.

Speaking to New York-based station WBAI, Mr McGeough - who is the president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Co Tyrone - accused people from republican families who sit as Diplock court judges and prosecutors of “arrogantly passing judgement on patriots”.

He described Catholics who take on these roles as “traitors in effect, administering British rule here in the six counties" and appeared to refer to them as “collaborators”.

UUP assembly member and former British soldier Doug Beattie described the use of the terms traitors and collaborators as "emotive and provocative”.

He also claimed the remarks “bordered on incitement to commit an unlawful act against members of the judiciary in Northern Ireland”.

A former IRA prisoner, Mr McGeough was jailed for 20 years in 2011 for the attempted murder of former DUP councillor Sammy Brush in 1981.

He was released after two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

His solicitor Aiden Carlin last night confirmed that an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) "has been accepted and is under active investigation”.

Mr McGeough strongly denied making any threats during the interview and claimed his comments reflected a perception within the republican community.

“Anyone who has taken the time to listen to the interview will see there is no correlation to what is actually said and the ridiculous accusations being made.”

The republican also dismissed suggestions that his comments amounted to incitement and claimed some unionists had failed to condemn a recent banner erected in Dungannon in memory of LVF founder Billy Wright, which he described as “the epitome of incitement and hatred”.

Mr McGeough said he believes he has been singled out because of local publicity around an AOH event being held next month in Co Tyrone to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Gaelic chieftain Hugh O’Neill.

“The fact that the Hibernians are honouring our Gaelic ancestors who in the past fought against English conquests and highlighted their genocidal massacres is driving these people to make critical outbursts,” he said.

"The AOH are not going to be pushed around by any unionist politicians.”

Mr McGeough added that he now plans to go on a “religious retreat” and said he "would say prayers for his unionist attackers”.

“It would be too much to pray for their conversion to the Catholic faith,” he said.