Gerry McGeough vows to fight expulsion from Ancient Order of Hibernians
GERRY McGeough has vowed to fight a decision by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to expel him.
Mr McGeough had been president of the conservative Catholic organisation in Tyrone since 2016.
The announcement by the National Board of Erin followed an emergency general meeting of the organisation's Tyrone County Board in Ardboe on Saturday.
It is understood delegates from across the county attended the meeting at which a new board was appointed.
It is believed the decision to expel Mr McGeough followed a series of allegations, which have been denied by the former president.
In April the entire Tyrone board was suspended by the organisation's national leadership.
A former IRA prisoner, Mr McGeough was previously elected AOH president in Tyrone in 2011 but was jailed a few weeks later for the attempted murder of former DUP councillor Sammy Brush in 1981.
The native of Brantry, near Dungannon, he was arrested leaving an assembly election count in Omagh in 2007 where he was standing as an independent candidate in protest at Sinn Féin's support for the PSNI.
He was sentenced to 20 years in jail, but was released after two under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr McGeough organised an annual Easter event in Carrickmorre and last week paid tribute to former IRA leader Kevin McKenna.
He claimed the organisation has gone from “strength to strength” since he took over in Tyrone in 2016.
“It’s no secret that elements have always been hostile to my republican background and they now saw an opportunity to have me ousted,” he claimed.
John Shanahan, assistant secretary of the National Board of Erin, said the decision to expel Mr McGeough “arose from a number of complaints”.
“It’s an internal matter and we are not going to discuss the reasons why it is being done,” he said.
He added that “the national board had no choice to take the action that we did” and said the remaining members of the old Tyrone board have had their suspensions lifted.
The episode has exposed divisions with the AOH in Tyrone.
Seamus Conlan, president of Carnan division 97, which is near Ardboe, aid he intends to write to Mr Shanahan and claimed Mr McGeough was elected to the role of president “unopposed”.
“(Gerry McGeough) has done enormous work and made more advances and recruited more members in the past four years than the former presidents of Tyrone did in 25 years,” he said.
Mr McGeough’s solicitor Aiden Carlin said: “Mr McGeough further instructs that any decision by the AOH to expel him from the organisation on whatever grounds will be the subject of vigorous legal challenge.”