There is great pleasure to be here today as International Chairperson of the Campaign to Free GerryMcGeough and to support his release. There are many people supporting Gerry case, politicians on both sides of the border, clergy and many others.
In Gerry’s case, we are talking about an incident 31 years ago and someone who is fully supportive of the peace process. When I was dealing with the prisoners in the nineties I believed the prisoners question was central to the process. I believe it is equally important today. I want to give special recognition for the efforts of MLA Pat Ramsey (SDLP) on behalf of all republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. I would like to thank the committee for their support and for all the work they have done. I have been to visit Gerry twice in prison and I intend to continue my visits until his release.
As some of you may be aware, I worked on prisoner issues in the 90s in relation to the Peace Process and I believe that the resolution of the prisoner issue at the time was a critical factor of the Peace Process.
I would like to commiserate with all those who suffered or were injured during the troubles. To the families of those who died also my commiserations. The whole basis of the Peace Process was to build a new future by agreement where violence would be no more. This has to a large extent been the result of the process, so much so, that we now take peace for granted. It was also a central part of the process that the past could not be undone and that issues such as the prisoner issue, future convictions etc. had to be dealt with. As you all know part of the Peace Process was the release of all of the Prisoners once they had served two years or more.
What is not as well known is that part of the Weston Park Agreement signed in 2001 between the British and Irish Governments dealt with the issue of further convictions in paragraph 20 where it says
“Both Governments also recognise that there is an issue to be addressed, with the completion of the early release scheme, about supporters of organisations now on cease fire against whom there are outstanding prosecutions, and in some cases extradition proceedings, for offences committed before 10 April 1998. Such people would, if convicted, stand to benefit from the early release scheme. The Government accept that it would be a natural development of the scheme for such prosecutions not to be pursued and will as soon as possible,and in any event before the end of the year, take such steps as are necessary in their jurisdictions to resolve this difficulty so that those concerned are not prosecuted”.
Unfortunately this legislation was never passed in Westminster and the matter has been left in abeyance.
However I believe that the agreement should still be implemented.
In the case of Gerry McGeough we are talking about an event that happened in 1981 – thirty one years ago.
About a man who has always supported the Peace Process.
A man that returned to Ireland went to TCD and has lived and worked peacefully since.
A man who has lived in Tyrone for seven years and participated openly in politics to the point of contesting an election there after which he was arrested.
A man who has been active in and an office holder in the AOH
A man that people of a wide range of political backgrounds have testified to his commitment to peace.
All we are asking for here today if for the Weston Park agreement to be acted on and for Gerry to be released immediately. We believe it is in the power of the British Authorities to do this.
In this way instead of creating a distrust of politics and destabilising the Peace Process we will strengthen it and show all of our young people that the way forward is peace and justice and honour.
I am delighted that Gerry’s daughter Una is here with us today and I want to endorse what she had to say regarding her father’s health and the effect of his incarceration on his family.
POSTED ON BEHALF OF : Damian Herron, & Helen McClafferty.
- Gerry McGeough Justice Campaign (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- STATEMENT FROM GERRY McGEOUGH, MARCH 29th 2012, FROM MAGHABERRY PRISON ! (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Anger as McGeough trial costs taxpayers £226,000 (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Attorney General Holder and the Blind Eye (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)
- Statement from Gerry McGeough, January 5, 2012: (seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com)