Northern Ireland

McGeough: 20 years for attempted murder of UDR soldier

Gerry McGeough
Image caption Gerry McGeough denied attempting to murder DUP councillor Samuel Brush in 1981

Former IRA man Gerry McGeough has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for the attempted murder of an off-duty UDR soldier 30 years ago.

McGeough, 52, shot Sammy Brush, now a DUP councillor, in Aughnacloy in June 1981.

He was arrested in 2007 as he left an election count centre in Omagh where he was standing as a candidate.

Speaking outside the court, Sammy Brush expressed his approval of the sentence.

"I think in all honesty you have got to make sure that the message goes out loud and clear to people who would consider getting involved in terrorism that sooner or leter they are going to have to pay the price," he said.

Handing down the 20-year sentence, Mr Justice Stephens told McGeough:

"You elevated your political opinions and views over democracy, the rule of law, the existence and bodily integrity of Mr Brush."

Sammy Brush, who worked as a postman at the time, was making a delivery to a house north of Aughnacloy, County Tyrone, when he was attacked.

He had just put a letter through the letterbox when he saw a masked gunman stepping out from an adjacent shed, turn in his direction and shoot at him from about 12 ft.

Gunshot wound

A bullet proof jacket saved the Mr Brush's life and he returned fire with his own pistol, wounding McGeough.

The gunman was treated in Monaghan Hospital before being flown to a Dublin hospital where he was treated for a gunshot wound.

He later escaped despite being under armed guard.

In 1983, McGeough tried to claim political asylum in Sweden.

His application was turned down.

At his trial, a Swedish immigration expert quoted a letter from McGeough in which he spoke about shooting a British soldier.

"I went there to ambush him and in accordance with the Geneva Convention, I wore military uniform," said the letter.

"I shot him in the chest but I now realise that he was wearing a bullet proof vest under his shirt. He returned fire and wounded me," it continued.

After the sentencing, Mr Brush said: "I'm pleased with the verdict and I'm pleased with the sentence.

"I think that the judge did take everything into consideration and he made a very full submission on the whole thing and I think was very, very fair."

Good Friday Agreement

Sinn Fein MLA Michelle Gildernew supplied a reference for McGeough ahead of his sentencing.

The Stormont agriculture minister said the prosecution should not have happened because the offence took place before the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is clear that an anomaly has arisen around some of these historical cases - a fact acknowledged by the British Government some time ago along with a commitment to rectify the situation," she said.

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