Northern Ireland news

Prominent republican 'suffers heart attack' after being punched at Pride parade

A woman throws a punch at prominent republican Gerry McGeough in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, on Saturday
Connla Young

PROMINENT Tyrone republican and anti-abortion activist Gerry McGeough (63) last night said doctors have told him he suffered a heart attack after being assaulted during a Pride parade.

Up to 120 people are estimated by police to have taken part in the event in Cookstown on Saturday, which was described as "a great success" by organisers.

There had been calls for respect and tolerance to be shown ahead of the Mid Ulster Pride event after it emerged that the Parades Commission had been notified of two protests, one from an individual and another from 'Protest Against Mid-Ulster Pride'.

Police last night said "the parade passed off without any issues and there were two protests in the area".

Gerry McGeough

Mr McGeough was with a group of people who were saying the Rosary and holding a statue of the Virgin Mary when he was approached by a woman and punched in the face.

Footage of the incident circulated on social media shows a woman speaking to Mr McGeough for a short time before striking him.

PSNI officers can be seen restraining the woman and leading her away.

Police last night said a 44-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of common assault following an incident in the James Street area of Cookstown on Saturday was released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

A spokeswoman later added they are not treating the assault as a hate crime.

Mr McGeough's solicitor Aiden Carlin last night called "for a police investigation as to whether or not it is a hate crime".

Mr McGeough said the prayer gathering was not a protest.

"We went there to engage in peaceful prayer, which is what we did," the father-of-four said.

"And I was physically assaulted and as a consequence will find myself in hospital for several days.

"We are not particularly surprised because when you go out and live your Catholic faith you come under attack."

Molly Farrrell, heath and well-being officer with Mid Ulster Pride, said she was unaware of the incident.

"We had made it clear from the beginning that we remain peaceful and don't engage with protesters," she said.

"I don't imagine it was anybody who was part of the parade."

Ms Farrell added she was "very sorry to hear that happened".

She described the parade itself as a "great success" and said the "general consensus was that everybody wants to come back next year".

"It was powerful, I don't think we ever quiet expected it to be the success it has been."

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