Gerry McGeough attacked while saying Rosary at Pride parade
An ex-IRA gunrunner and former Sinn Féin ard comhairle member has been assaulted while saying the rosary at a Pride parade.
Gerry McGeough was punched in the face by a woman as he stood with eight men praying and holding a statute of the Virgin Mary as an LGBTQ march made its way through Cookstown, Co Tyrone, on Saturday.
Mr McGeough (63) later described those parading as “glorifying the sin of sodomy” and lambasted Sinn Fein for taking part in the event.
Before punching him, the woman approaches Mr McGeough to say something before the attack.
She was arrested immediately by police who witnessed the assault.
The ultra-Catholic nationalist group, Síol na hÉireann, later claimed Mr McGeough had suffered a heart attack on Sunday morning.
Footage of the incident is circulating on social media.
The PSNI said a 44-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of common assault following an incident in the James Street area of the town on Saturday. It is understood she was released pending a report to the Noth’s Public Prosecution Service.
Molly Farrell of Mid Ulster Pride told The Irish News she was unaware of the incident.
“We had made it clear from the beginning that we remain peaceful and don’t engage with protesters,” she said.
“I don’t imagine it was anybody who was part of the parade.” She added that she was “very sorry to hear what happened” and that the parade itself had been a great success.
In 2011, Mr McGeough became the first republican jailed for historic offences since the Good Friday Agreement after he was convicted of the 1981 attempted murder of part-time UDR man Sammy Brush 30 years earlier. He was released in 2013.
In an interview broadcast on ‘Purged.TV’, Mr McGeough said of being punched on Saturday: “We were in Cookstown as Catholics praying a rosary in reparation for the offence given to God by those who were parading through the town promoting and glorifying the sin of sodomy.
“We were not protesting, we were simply praying a peaceful rosary when all of a sudden I was assaulted.”
The Mid-Ulster Pride parade was backed by clergy as well as Sinn Féin, the SDLP and People Before Profit. Crowds came out onto the streets to cheer and support it.
Mr McGeough rounded on his former party for taking part. “I’ve been in several prisons across the world for republican activity. A lot of people we see in Sinn Féin today couldn’t be found for love or money when the bullets were being fired way back in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
“Sinn Féin is an anti-Catholic organisation. When I was a member of the Irish republican movement, it was standing by Catholicism especially in places like East Tyrone.
“Now we have Sinn Féin out promoting something that during the time of the hunger-strike 40 years ago would have been utterly repellent to any self-respecting Irish republican in this part of the world”.
Mr McGeough joined the East Tyrone Brigade in 1975, aged 16. In 1981, he shot Mr Brush – who also worked as a postman – as he delivered mail in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone.
A bulletproof jacket saved the part-time UDR soldier’s life and he returned fire with his own pistol, wounding Mr McGeough. The IRA man was treated in a Dublin hospital but escaped despite being under armed guard.
In 1983, his application for political asylum in Sweden was refused. In 1988, he was arrested crossing the Dutch-German border with weapons in a car. He was charged with attacks on the British Army in the Rhine and held in Germany for four years.
Mr McGeough was then extradited to the US where he was charged with attempting to buy surface-to-air missiles in1983. After serving three years in American jails, he was deported to the Republic in 1996.
He became a prominent Sinn Féin figure and was national director of its ‘No To Nice’ campaign. He later left the party in protest at its abortion stance.
Mr McGeough was arrested in connection with Mr Brush’s attempted murder in 2007 on leaving a count centre in Omagh after standing as an independent nationalist candidate in Fermanagh and South Tyrone in the 2007 Assembly election.