A republican who branded Catholic judges and prosecutors in Northern Ireland “traitors” who would be dealt with as “collaborators” looks likely to remain an office holder in a leading Catholic organisation.
Gerry McGeough, who was re-elected president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) in Tyrone earlier this year, made the remarks during an interview with an Irish-American radio station in New York City at the weekend.
On Tuesday, an AOH spokesman said that as McGeough was speaking in a personal capacity, and in “no way, shape or form” reflecting the views of the AOH, no disciplinary action is planned.
Mr McGeough was jailed in 2011 for attempting to kill off-duty UDR member Sammy Brush.
He told the radio show’s host: “You have Irish Catholics, traitors in effect, administering British rule here in the six counties. We want [the English] out and then we will deal with all these other issues...the collaborators and all the rest of it.”
The 57-year-old from Co Tyrone said: “There are people from republican families who are sitting as Diplock court judges, and prosecutors, and all the other stuff of the day you can’t possibly imagine, and they are arrogantly passing judgment on patriots.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said McGeough’s remarks “require to be investigated as incitement”, while Ann Travers – the daughter of a Catholic magistrate – whose sister was murdered during an IRA attack on her family said the comments made her “beyond angry”.
As well as his conviction for the attempted murder of Mr Brush, McGeough was also found guilty of IRA membership and possession of the two revolvers used in Mr Brush’s assassination attempt.
Although sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, McGeough served only two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
In a letter published in Wednesday’s News Letter, the chair of Bar Council of NI, Gerry McAlinden QC, said: “Any attempt to intimidate members of the judiciary or members of the legal profession engaged in prosecution work is to be deplored by all right-thinking members of society.”
Distancing the Ancient Order of Hibernians from their Tyrone president’s comments, AOH assistant secretary John Shanahan said the organisation would have “great difficulty” with anyone making such public statements.
“Unfortunately, Mr McGeough speaks only for himself, and certainly not for the Ancient Order of Hibernians,” he said.
“Not for our national board, not for any of its constituent component parts. He has made remarks that are political in nature, that is not the character of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
“Our motto is ‘friendship, unity and true Christian charity’ and these remarks are certainly not in that vein. They can be comforting to no community, and we completely disassociate ourselves from his remarks.”
Mr Shanahan said that as Mr McGeough did not profess to be speaking for the AOH during the interview, there were no immediate plans to take action, or investigate whether he was a fit person to act as an office holder within the organisation.
“He was elected by the local Hibernian organisation in Co Tyrone and we have had nobody raise a question about his fitness, so far. If someone were to do so, and were to introduce these remarks as the basis for challenging his fitness, we could certainly give that consideration, but at this point, to be fair, he did not identify himself in this radio interview, which was done on an Irish-American radio show.”
Mr Shanahan added: “From what I can see in the remarks he made no reference to the AOH, but I can tell you unequivocally that these remarks in no way, shape or form represent the values of the AOH, the ethos of the order, and we would certainly have great difficulty with anyone who made such statements in public.
“I regret that this kind of palaver is going on.”
The News Letter has been unable to make contact with Mr McGeough for a response.