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startling claim Ex IRA gun runner believes MI5 had hand in punch attack as he protested Pride parade

Within hours of the incident, father-of-four McGeough - who already has a serious coronary condition - suffered a heart attack.

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Gerry McGeough

Gerry McGeough

Gerry McGeough

An IRA gunrunner turned Catholic activist hit out at the woman whose vicious attack on him at an anti-gay rights protest has gone viral on social media.

And Gerry McGeough made a startling claim - that British Secret Service agents had a hand in last Saturday's attack which happened as he protested against a Pride parade.

McGeough was leading friends and supporters in a decade of the Rosary when he was attacked.

Within hours of the incident, father-of-four McGeough - who already has a serious coronary condition - suffered a heart attack.

He was rushed to Craigavon Hospital where he underwent an emergency operation to have another stent inserted in his heart.

But speaking to the Sunday World hours after his release, McGeough said: "We all know MI5 is operating in Ireland. And if its agents had a hand what happened to me last week, then I want to know about it."

McGeough was leading anti-Gay Pride colleagues in a public decade of the Rosary when a middle-aged woman approached him before landing a powerful right hook to his left jaw.

Video footage of the incident in Cookstown main street revealed that before launching the assault, a woman looked 64-year-old McGeough in the eye and said: "What about MI5 now Gerry?"

This was clearly heard on video film of the incident taken at the time.

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Footage of the incident in which Gerry McGeough, right, was punched was posted online

Footage of the incident in which Gerry McGeough, right, was punched was posted online

Footage of the incident in which Gerry McGeough, right, was punched was posted online

Eyewitnesses who spoke to the Sunday World say the woman was immediately pounced on by police who grabbed her by the neck.

But they also claim that as she was forced against a nearby cash dispensing machine, she shouted that McGeough was a member of the IRA, before mumbling something else about MI5.

And as the cops slapped handcuffs on the 44-year-old mother of four, she told them: "I'm complying. I'm complying."

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But minutes later, as the woman was placed in the rear of a police car parked nearby, she defiantly raised her middle finger in the direction of a stunned McGeough.

Although he holds an honours degree in history, McGeough operates as small farmer in the Brantry area near Eglish in Co Tyrone.

A former president of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, he has been steeped in community development many years.

A one-time leading member of the IRA's East Tyrone Brigade who later also served on Sinn Féin's top tier, he was jailed in a number of countries around the world for republican terror activities.

He was arrested in 1988 in Germany with two AK-47s in his car and was later charged with causing an explosion at a British military installation. He spent four years in a specially-built detention centre in Monchengladbach.

McGeough was extradited to the United States in 1992 to face arms charges dating back to 1983. He was flown to America and convicted of attempting to buy Stinger land-to-air missiles, spending three years in jail.

He was also jailed for wounding postman Sammy Brush who was also a member of the UDR.

In an interview with the Sunday World this week, McGeough said he believed MI5 agents had taken a wrecking ball approach to Irish Catholic organisations standing up for "traditional Catholic beliefs".

And he suspected the assault on him as he publicly prayed in Cookstown last week was part of the strategy.

"I am no longer a member of any political party. This is well known.

"I was a member of the Irish republican movement when it wasn't popular. And I have been jailed in several different countries around the world in relation to that.

"I left Sinn Féin because I saw what was happening and how it was about to change policy on abortion.

"These days, I'm a member of Síol na hEireann (Seed of Ireland). And we are prepared to publicly stand up for our beliefs and values which have a strong foundation in Irish Catholicism.

"In the past, our forefathers endured 'dungeon fire and sword' for standing up for their beliefs. In Cookstown last week, we were in the process of praying a joyful mystery of the Rosary in reparation of the sin of sodomy being celebrated by a parade through the streets, when I was viciously attacked.

"It was caught on film and it is there for everyone to see. The person who assaulted me is known to me. She was a member of the AoH when I was president.

"But she began whipping up an internal campaign against me.

"This happened just as the organisation was enjoying its greatest revival in years.

"The negativity it brought into the organisation stirred up a hatred which resulted in organisation being wrecked in this area.

"As far as I'm concerned, it was a classic MI5 stroke to destroy an Irish Catholic group from within.

"We have values and beliefs and principles. And we are determined to stick by them through thick and thin.

"In the 17th century, the Planter establishment claimed 'superstition' - which is how they referred to Catholicism - would be extinct by the end of the century. Guess what? We're still here.

"I'm urging people to come out on to the streets and pray publicly in support of their beliefs. Okay you might get a punch in the face, but it's easier to endure than what happened before," he said.

The Tyrone man said he began to feel ill shortly after returning to his farm in Brantry last Saturday.

"I just knew I wasn't well and I was advised to get to the hospital ASAP. I suffered a rarefied heart attack, but luckily I was in the right place to receive the appropriate medical attention.

"Surgeons inserted another stent in my heart to add to the seven already there. And I've to go back for a ninth at a later stage."

McGeough also said that he had asked his lawyers to find out if there had been any MI5 involvement in the incident in Cookstown.

"I've asked my lawyers to look into this. If MI5 have a connection to any of this, then I need to know."

The PSNI said a 44-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of common assault and pending further inquiries, a file will be forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service.

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