IRA man defects from SF to Euro hopeful Barrett
EOGHAN WILLIAMS THE anti-abortion European election candidate Justin Barrett is being backed by a convicted IRA gun-runner and former Sinn Fein national executive member.
Gerry McGeough, who has defected from Gerry Adams's party, joins disaffected former Fianna Fail and Fine Gael supporters who have also switched to the Barrett camp.
Mr McGeough, Sinn Fein's national organiser during the first Nice referendum, says he is fed up with the party's current leadership and the prevalence of "ceasefire soldiers".
He shares Mr Barrett's strong Catholic convictions, Euro scepticism and likens a "deluge" of immigrants to the Protestant plantation of 300 years ago.
If the Independent does well in next month's election, sources close to Mr Barrett say he will seek to form a political party with Mr McGeough and others whom he believes have become disillusioned with mainstream parties.
Mr Barrett, a former member of Young Fine Gael with a privileged upbringing, says he can see why people might think it strange that he has joined forces with McGeough.
"We are from totally different backgrounds but that doesn't mean we can't both see that a vast swathe of the Irish population feels disenfranchised and that the main parties are ignoring some of the biggest issues on the doorstep," Mr Barrett said.
Mr McGeough believes Sinn Fein is ignoring key issues from pro-life to anti-European sentiment. He says "well-placed republicans" in Waterford, Cork and Co Down have turned their back on the party in recent years.
"We believe that Sinn Fein doesn't stand for anything other than the latest politically-correct fad.
"I am still an Irish republican in that I believe the British should get out of Ireland. I'm also a practicing Catholic and I don't agree with Sinn Fein's pro-abortion policy. I find that the party is now dominated by radical gender feminists. No Irish patriot or nationalist could possibly work along with that or tolerate it in any shape or form.
"It's a party which doesn't want to know old-style republicans. If you've played your part in the military campaign, if you have been a prisoner of war, you are almost an embarrassment. We have nouveau Sinn Fein populated with ceasefire soldiers, political opportunists and rejects from other parties who are being fast-tracked to the top at the expense of countless old republicans," McGeough said.
Mr McGeough says he supports Mr Barrett's "Catholic patriotism".
On top of his own European election aspirations, Mr Barrett is campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the citizenship referendum. He is critical of the way government and Fine Gael are fighting the referendum campaign, saying once-loyal FF and FG party workers are defecting to his side.
Mr Barrett believes Bertie Ahern's party is being dominated by Mary Harney's Progressive Democrats and in particular by Justice Minister Michael McDowell.
"The fact is the incentives for immigrants to come here are putting lives at risk. Pregnant immigrants are presenting in Irish hospitals at the last possible moment without medical histories.
"The fact is the PD tail is wagging the Fianna Fail dog and people are getting fed up with it," Mr Barrett said.
Mr McGeough also believes the Government parties are failing to tackle immigration.
The convicted IRA gun-runner, who spent four years in a German detention centre and three in various American prisons, said: "I have nothing against people moving to our country. I have travelled abroad quite a bit myself. I don't want to be labelled a racist. My wife is a foreign immigrant and I welcome new blood into the country but there's a difference between that and being deluged by scam-mongers."
Mr McGeough believes Irish patriotism may not be best served by large-scale immigration. A Trinity College history graduate, he was a vice-principal of Bruce College until last November when he was removed following a complaint from a parent about his IRA past.