BRANTRY schoolgirl Una McGeough has taken the campaign to have her father freed to the Irish Senate.
Gerry McGeough is serving a 20-year sentence imposed last year for shooting off-duty UDR soldier Samuel Brush.
In March, a High Court judge ruled that the former IRA man should not be pardoned for the attempted murder.
Last week, 11-year-old Una, accompanied by her mother Maria, addressed the audience of Irish Senators and TDs in moving terms and explained why her father should be freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
“We hardly remember what it was like with him at home. When I play camogie I can picture him there cheering me on. He has missed many important things in our lives”, she told the gathering which included Senator Mark Daly, TD Eamon O’Cuiv and other Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein representatives.
“When I started my exams, I didn’t have my daddy there to help me, but thinking about him made me believe in myself and go on. At Cormac’s Holy Communion and my Confirmation, he was not allowed to come. Even so, we had our heads held high up, no matter what.
“As I look back at pictures and memories, I see how happy we were with him. Why can’t these people not understand that we need our daddy.”
Irish Senator Mark Daly, who is a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that as a result of the schoolgirl’s speech a meeting will be held between the Dail Foreign Affairs Committee and the Good Friday Implementation Committee.
“We will be asking the family, and officials from both North and South to attend”, he said.
In the past few weeks, delegations of politicians from the SDLP and Sinn Fein have visited McGeough in jail, adding to the momentum of support for his release.
Meanwhile concerns are rising that McGeough’s health is at serious risk because of a prison protest taking place in nearby cells.
Speaking from Maghaberry prison, McGeough said that he was struggling with his heart condition.
“I have six stents in my heart, and unfortunately my medication has been disrupted because of dysfunction in the prison. Further medical tests have been ordered on me, but because of the security issues there are difficulties.
“In spite of my heart condition, I have to climb onto a ledge and shuffle along a set of railings to avoid the pools of urine and excrement that form in the prison corridors.
“There has been a recent escalation in the protest, and conditions are very unhealthy.
“However, my morale is good and it is reassuring to see the political parties get behind my campaign. Sinn Fein are now totally committed to working for my release. The momentum is gathering, and the support has been tremendous, particularly in the US from the Ancient Order of Hibernians.”