DUP councillor shot by IRA calls for public inquiry over On-the-Run letters

DUP councillor Sammy Brush
DUP councillor Sammy Brush

A former part-time UDR man who was shot four times in an IRA attack has called for “a full public inquiry into the on the run comfort letters and whatever else has still to come out”.

Sammy Brush, 71, a DUP councillor for Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council, spoke out after former PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Norman Baxter claimed Downing Street had phoned the chief constable’s office asking for the release of two republican suspects [Vincent McAnespie and Gerry McGeough] who were wanted for questioning in connection with his attempted murder in 1981.

They were arrested on March 8, 2007.

Giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, which has begun an inquiry into the process for dealing with on the runs, Mr Baxter said: “Downing Street rang the chief constable’s office looking for their release and I got a phone call suggesting I should release them. That, in my mind, is attempting to pervert the course of justice and that was conveyed back to headquarters.

“As a police officer that is totally illegal and unconstitutional. We continued interviewing them and Mr McGeough was subsequently convicted and sentenced for attempted murder.”

The then Chief Constable Hugh Orde yesterday told the BBC: “No such call ever happened during the seven years that I was there.”

McGeogh was convicted in February 2011 of attempted murder, possessing firearms with intent, and IRA membership. He was released in January 2013.

Last night Mr Brush, who was a 38-year-old postman at the time he was shot, said: “While I was shocked at the revelations of Norman Baxter I was not totally surprised. And I expect there is far more still to come.

“I would think that that phone call Norman Baxter was talking about was not the first one – or the last one of this kind. I also think the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee will uncover a lot more, but I don’t think they will get to the bottom of it. That will take a public inquiry, or something with the same authority, to probe into this messy business that has gone on.”

Mr Brush, who says his life was saved by the protective body armour he was wearing, added: “You cannot build a permanent peace on lies. For that reason there needs to be a full public inquiry.

“It was like a political game and designed to keep a lid on the situation at the expense of victims.”