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'Traitors' comment over Catholic judges condemned in Commons

Prominent republican Gerry McGeough pictured at the Hibernian Day in Kinturk, Co Tyrone. Picture by Mal McCann

CONTROVERSIAL comments about Catholic judges made by Co Tyrone republican Gerry McGeough were raised in the House of Commons yesterday.

In a radio interview last August, the former IRA prisoner described Catholic judges and prosecutors who sit in non-jury Diplock courts as "traitors in effect, administering British rule here in the six counties".

But he later strongly denied to The Irish News that he had made any threats.

It was confirmed earlier this month that police are not investigating McGeough over his comments.

A spokeswoman said: "In relation to the complaints received, police sought prosecutorial advice. It was considered that no offence could be identified and no further action was taken."

McGeough was jailed for 20 years in 2011 for the attempted murder of former DUP councillor Sammy Brush in 1981, but was released two years later under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking at Northern Ireland questions at Westminster yesterday, DUP MP Jim Shannon urged NIO minister Kris Hopkins to take action over the comments.

"What I am calling on the minister of state to do is to contact the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) to discover why a man who was convicted of the attempted murder of my colleague, Sammy Brush, and is released on licence for this conviction and is known to be a man with a lengthy history of violence, is not being pursued by the PSNI and the PPS for the recent threat against Catholic judiciary, naming them as traitors in the same manner," he said.

Mr Hopkins described McGeough's comments "irresponsible and disgraceful" and said he supports the north's judiciary.

However, he said it was up to police and the PPS to decide on prosecutions.

"I trust our police service and I trust the PPS to be able to make the right decision," he said.

Meanwhile, Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon hit out at the "comfort letter" scheme that saw IRA on-the-runs told they were no longer wanted by police.

"The minister will of course know that Mr McGeough did not receive a comfort letter, apparently because of an internal feud within Sinn Féin," she said.

"But that scheme of comfort letters for those on the run, a scheme operated by both Labour and Conservative governments, was utterly deplorable, completely immoral and wrong.

"Would the minister just confirm for the record that no such scheme, or anything akin to an amnesty, is on the table for negotiation with Sinn Féin at the present time for dealing with legacy issues?"

Mr Hopkins confirmed that no scheme was under discussion.

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