Prominent republican Gerry McGeough has been elected to lead the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Co Tyrone for the second time.
Mr McGeough, a father-of-four and former IRA prisoner, was the editor of the large circulation Irish Catholic newspaper the Irish Family.
He was previously elected AOH president in Tyrone in 2011 but was jailed for the attempted murder of former DUP councillor Sammy Brush in 1981.
Mr McGeough said he was ‘very honoured’ to have been elected as president of the AOH Tyrone County Board. The organisation had been moribund for years, with its role confined to charity events and small parades. He said he has planned a busy year ahead for local AOH groups, which took part in a well-attended St Patrick’s Day parade in Aughnacloy.
“It’s my role to raise the profile of the AOH over the coming year, which I hope to do to the best of my ability”, he said. “Every Catholic family in the county has a connection with the organisation in the form of a relative who once belonged to the AOH ranks, and many households still have memorabilia including collarettes. It is my hope to revive these connections.”
He added that it was his intention to take a more proactive stance on Catholic issues, with pilgrimages planned to a Massrock in Bailieborough Cavan, and Knock.
“I have been invited to pro-life mass in Saint Patrick’s Church Dungannon on Monday the 4th of April at 7:30 pm which I will be happy to attend. Following the success of the Saint Patrick’s day parade in Aughnacloy, towns across Tyrone are clamouring to host the next Hibernian parade as these marches bring a great buzz and lots of business to a town. We had a glorious day in Aughnacloy with great weather and a large turn-out to celebrate the life of our patron saint.
“It looks like Coalisland may be the next venue when a Saint Patrick’s day slot for Tyrone becomes available in the next couple of years. We will also continue to strengthen our ties with the American AOH.”
The AOH evolved out of the Defenders and Ribbonmen Catholic defence groups in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Mr McGeough described the Hibernian movement as a “resilient organisation that has defied all attempts to stamp it out over the centuries.”