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'Sinn Féin said if I shut up I wouldn't be shut up'

(Suzanne Breen, Belfast Telegraph)

Gerry McGeough has claimed that Sinn Féin held secret talks with Gerry McGeough in which it pledged to use its influence to prevent his imprisonment if he stopped criticising the party.

Speaking minutes before his conviction for attempted murder, McGeough said Sinn Féin MP Pat Doherty made the offer last autumn during a visit to his home:

"Sinn Féin promised to use its influence to stop me being jailed if I stopped publicly attacking the party. But I believe I will be convicted and imprisoned as Sinn Féin are bit players with no influence."

McGeough thanked former PUP chairman and UVF prisoner William 'Plum' Smith who gave evidence at his trial about a secret deal to pardon on-the-runs: "I admire what he did. We were combatants on different sides during the war. But the war is over."

McGeough was arrested in 2007 at the Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly election count. He had stood as an independent, anti-PSNI candidate.

His co-accused, Vincent McAnespie, whose wife Brenda was a Sinn Féin councillor, was yesterday acquitted of all charges. McGeough's supporters claimed that McGeough was being "punished" for his opposition to the political status quo.

Legal sources said the evidence against McGeough was substantially stronger than that against McAnespie.

McGeough said he supported the peace process but claimed the Good Friday and St Andrew's Agreements were "a bad deal for nationalists and must be renegotiated".

He claimed his prosecution was politically motivated: "Either the Troubles are over, and a line should be drawn in the sand, or they aren't. If they aren't, let everybody be brought before the courts.

"Why is Martin McGuinness not on trial for past IRA membership which he has admitted? Why have the Bloody Sunday soldiers who killed civilians not been charged?"

McGeough said he wasn't "a dissident" but when asked if he had any remorse for his role as an IRA member, he said: "None whatsoever. It's every person's patriotic duty to fight for their country.

"I've no apologies to make. It's as a badge of honour to be jailed by the British." McGeough's 1998 novel Defenders, set in Co Tyrone, was used as evidence against him. Mr Justice Stephens said it contained a six-page account of a shooting of a British soldier which bore "remarkable similarities" to that of Sammy Brush.

February 20, 2011

This article appeared in the February 19, 2011 edition of the Belfast Telegraph.

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