‘No fair deal for victims’ - Sammy Brush

Tyrone DUP councillor Sammy Brush speaks to the News Letter after the release of former IRA  man  Gerry McGeough
Tyrone DUP councillor Sammy Brush speaks to the News Letter after the release of former IRA man Gerry McGeough

A MAN who almost died in an IRA attack in 1981 says that, while his assailant has just finished two years in jail, he is still under regular attack – 32 years on.

Sammy Brush, now aged 70, was a 38-year-old postman when IRA man Gerry McGeough ambushed him at a remote Tyrone farmhouse during a mail delivery. Critically injured, he managed to return fire and seriously injured McGeough.

In 2011 the republican was convicted of attempted murder, possession of a firearm and ammunition, and IRA membership. But under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement he could only serve a maximum of two years – and so was released on Tuesday. He had previously served terrorism-related sentences in Germany and in the US.

Mr Brush, who was a part-time UDR sergeant and a UUP councillor when shot, claims victims are not getting a fair deal. He later switched to the DUP.

“He got a total of 41 years and he is out in less than two,” Mr Brush said.

“It was in the Belfast Agreement and the majority of people voted for it, whether they knew what was in it or not. They saw the carrot of peace dangled in front of them but they did not take into account what sort of impact it would have on victims. But in my view, whether you were a victim before 1998 or after 1998, the terms of imprisonment should be the same.”

McGeough has spoken to Mr Brush twice briefly since he tried to murder him. Once, at the 2007 election count in Omagh where the republican was standing as an independent. He failed to be elected and was arrested at the scene.

“He just said ‘hello Sammy’ as he walked past. He was really quite confident and cocky. Then outside court, during his trial, he made some remark to me about the weather. I did not reply. He has never shown any remorse and seems to believe he had the right to do what he did.”

He notes that McGeough is “well up” in the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AoH) and “a staunch Roman Catholic”.

“But how can he be so pro-life in abortion terms and square the circle of trying to murder his fellow countrymen?” asked Mr Brush.

In 2011, AoH National Secretary Harry McCabe confirmed that McGeough would not be ejected because he “has not been in breach of any of our rules” and the shooting took place “long before he joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians”.

Although McGeough was released from prison this week, Mr Brush says that verbal and physical attacks – which began on his home, family and property in 1981 – have never stopped.

“At first it was a case of graffiti on the house and ‘IRA’ scored into the door of the car. By 1994 and the first IRA ceasefire, I was assaulted outside my front door by a cousin of one of the men involved in my shooting. I had my eyelid split and required laser treatment for a detached retina.”

From then on he has had “dozens upon dozens” of windows smashed in his house in Ballygawley and his car.

“I have just lost count of how many.”

The last attack was a “Christmas present” in December, when the windows in his home were smashed in once again.

While he welcomes the fact that Sinn Fein representatives such as Michelle Gildernew MP have condemned the attacks on his home, he laments that they also campaigned to have the man who tried to kill him released from prison.

Last year, Mr Brush’s own council – Dungannon and South Tyrone – passed a motion calling for the early release of McGeough. He believes such political moves send mixed messages about the ongoing attacks on his home.

“My shooting was a serious shock to my 10-year-old son and three step-daughters,” Mr Brush said.

“My son got a lot of verbal abuse from other children, sectarian taunting. He was quite pally with a Roman Catholic lad down the street but he had to hide when he came up to visit – he was getting verbal abuse as well. They could hardly be seen together.”

He puts the ongoing attacks down to the fact that he remained a councillor despite the attack – and that he returned fire as he was running away from the gunmen, seriously injuring McGeough.

“I had wounded one of them and continued to live among them. It seemed to upset them greatly. Sometimes I also get sectarian abuse in the street – even on my way to church.

“My Roman Catholic neighbours have to keep their heads down and I don’t blame them. One of them gave a statement when I was assaulted and got his windows smashed in. The outside world sees a peace process but I live in a different world.

“I would like to have a peaceful society but I can’t see it. There is no willingness for people to share. I would like to see state and Roman Catholic schools replaced with integrated education so our children could grow up together. Peter Robinson wants that, but he is being ignored.”

Fermanagh and South Tyrone DUP MLA Lord Morrow said yesterday: “I know that many people from right across our community have been disgusted at the way in which Cllr Brush has been treated. It is high time that those nationalist representatives in Dungannon started standing with the victims of terrorism and not with the perpetrators.”

Sinn Fein was invited to comment but had not done so at the time of going to press. McGeough said he was legally prevented from commenting as he was appealing his convictions.