15 March 2007 Edition

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Charging of McAnespie and McGeough 'scandalous'

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as “scandalous” the charging of Vincent McAnespie and Gerry McGeough following their arrest on the day of the count in the Six County Assembly elections.
Both men appeared in court in Enniskillen on Monday, 12 March charged with the 1981 shooting of UDR soldier Sammy Brush who is now a DUP councillor in Omagh.
McGeough, from County Tyrone, stood as an independent candidate in last week’s assembly elections. He was arrested by the PSNI as he left the count centre in Omagh on Thursday afternoon 8 March.
Vincie McAnespie, who is married to Monaghan Sinn Féin councillor Brenda McAnespie, was arrested a short time later at his home in Aughnacloy.
McAnespie’s brother Aidan was shot dead by a British soldier in 1988 as he passed through the infamous Aughnacloy ckeckpoint on his way to a football match in Emyvale, County Monaghan.
Speaking after the double arrest Sinn Féin’s Fermanagh/South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew described the arrests as, “a political stunt”, saying that both McAnespie and McGeough were living and moving about the North openly and that the PSNI choose to arrest the men, “at a time of acute political sensitivity”.
She also criticised the PSNI over their arrest operation at the McAnespie’s Aughnacloy home and the effect it had on the couple’s children.
As the pair appeared in court on Monday their lawyers said the PSNI was relying on statements gathered in 1994 and that there was no other evidence.
McAnespie’s lawyer John Fahy said: “This is the whole evidence which links these men to the charges ...it appears to me to be a throw back to the very dark days which we thought were gone”
In a statement this week Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, Sinn F                       éin’s leader in Leinster House said the arrest of McAnespie and McGeough and their subsequent charging and court appearance had caused “justifiable outrage” among republicans throughout the border counties and beyond.
“These arrests came on the very day of the count in the Assembly elections. Both men have lived and travelled openly in the Six Counties for years, yet elements within the PSNI chose a time such as this to haul them before the courts”, Ó Caoláin said.
“Vincent McAnespie is a highly respected member of the community in Aughnacloy, Co. Tyrone. He is the father of six children and his wife is Monaghan Sinn Féin County Councillor Brenda McAnespie, a valued colleague of mine. Their home was raided and extensively searched by members of the PSNI on the evening of 8 March when Vincent was arrested. This has brought further distress to a family that has suffered the loss of Vincent’s brother Aidan McAnespie who was murdered by a British Army sniper at Aughnacloy in 1988”, he said.
“The arrest of Gerry McGeough, a candidate in the Assembly elections, at the count centre, was equally outrageous. Like Vincent McAnespie, Gerry McGeough has lived openly in County Tyrone for years.
“Clearly these developments are indicative of the fact that the securocrats still exert a key influence in the PSNI. This is a prime example of the type of political policing that Sinn Féin is determined to bring to an end”, the TD said.

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