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McGeough now a novelist

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — Gerry McGeough, a former republican prisoner who spent 14 years in the U.S., both in and outside jail, has written a novel which appears, to the uninitiated at least, to draw heavily on his republican experiences in County Tyrone.

The book, "Defenders," is published in Ireland and now available in the U.S. It tells the story of an IRA leader in Tyrone and of the various British agencies who are determined to break up his unit, at virtually any cost.

The IRA man, Turlough Gallagher, ends the book a fugitive in the U.S.

So, autobiographical?

"It’s a work of fiction" said McGeough, who said he hopes to publish two more novels, making up a trilogy.

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McGeough, who’s 40, was born and brought up in the Brantry, a townland outside the county town of Dungannon. He hasn’t been back since 1981, even to see his parents’ graves, fearing the RUC may still want to arrest him.

He arrived in the U.S. in 1981, having spent a year campaigning throughout Fermanagh and his native South Tyrone in support of the hunger strikers.

In 1982 he escaped an FBI sting operation which landed other republicans in court for attempting to acquire surface-to-air missiles for use in Northern Ireland.

He spent some time on the run, in Hawaii, Sweden and elsewhere before he was arrested in Germany and spent two years awaiting trial, mainly in solitary confinement in an underground bunker.

He was extradited back to the U.S. in 1982 on foot of a warrant connected to the 1982 FBI sting. McGeough was transported from Germany in the cargo hold of a plane, "along with large quantities of beer and machinery," he remembers.

Bailed in the U.S., he spent the next two years giving speeches the length and breadth of the U.S. in support of the republican struggle, ending up on Easter Monday 1994 in Pennsylvania being sentenced to three years.

In 1996 he was deported back to Ireland and is now in the first year of a four-year degree course in history at Trinity College, Dublin. While in the U.S., he wrote a book of short stories, "The Ambush and Other Stories."

"Defenders" is available by mail order through Irish Visions, 1 (800) 474-7480 or at The Irish Book Shop, 580 Broadway, N.Y.; (212) 274 1923.

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