THE election agent for a TUV Westminiser candidate has a conviction for operating an armed loyalist roadblock.
Gary McDonald, pictured above, the election agent for Mid Ulster hopeful Gareth Ferguson, spent a year in jail for his role in a roadblock involving masked men in Portglenone, Co Antrim on July 12th 2003. McDonald, of Innishrush Road in the village, admitted using a deactivated AK47 assault rifle to stop motorists. Thomas O’Hara and his son Thomas jnr, from Cullybackey, were travelling through Portglenone separately when they were stopped. A gun was put to Mr O’Hara snr’s head and the trigger was pulled. On Friday Thomas O’Hara jnr said what had happened was “still raw” and it was a case of “double standards”. “I think it’s a downright disgrace that the TUV say they are standing up for victims. But it seems that if you’re Catholic, you don’t matter,” he said. At their trial, McDonald and two others claimed they were protecting an Orange arch. They were each given three-year suspended jail terms in October 2005. The sentences sparked outrage among nationalist politicians. However, in 2006 the Appeal Court deemed those sentences too lenient and imposed a two-year custodial term on each defendant. They spent a year in jail, allowing for 50 percent remission. The Irish News did not receive a response to requests for comment from either Gareth Ferguson or the TUV. Stephen Maternaghan, Gary McDonald and his brother John, all of Innishrush Road in the village, pleaded guilty and admitted using a deactivated AK47 assault rifel to stop motorists. In 2009, Thomas O’Hara senior recalled the incident, saying that his son, who was aged only 18-year’s-old at the time, had asked him to come and collect him after himself was stopped driving through the roadblock. “He had to drive through them. Then he went to a friend’s house and asked me to come and pick him up,” Mr O’Hara said. “When I saw them I thought it was Thomas’s friends. There were three boys standing on the road. I stopped and they said: “What are you doing here?” He added: “They put a gun to my head and I heard them fire two shots at me.”
Victims still awaiting payout for roadblock attended by Gary McDonald.
After Mr O’Hara managed to drive away, the three men also approached another vehicle and pointed the rifle at that car, but fled when the occupants identified themselves as police officers. At their trail, the trio had claimed they had been protecting an Orange arch which had previously been burnt down and described their actions as “out of character”, with alcohol consumption also cited as a factor. The men were given three year suspended jail sentences in October 2005, sparking outrage among nationalist politicians. Suspending the prison terms, Judge Kevin Finnegan QC said the three men would not have acted as they did “in a normal society”. However, in 2006 the Appeal Court ruled that those sentences were too lenient and imposed a two year custodial term on each defendant. Due to the 50 per cent remission policy, the trio served just a year in jail, with a further 12 months on probation. As part of their sentences the three men were each ordered to pay a total of £500 to Mr O’Hara and his son but in 2009 Mr O’Hara said they had still not received any of the compensation. The Irish News did not receive a response to requests for comment from either Gareth Ferguson or the TUV. Mr Ferguson, from Moneymore, is described on the TUV website as a self-employed joiner and an active member of all the loyal orders. At the announcement of his selection to contest the seat, he said: “As someone who is deeply concerned by the determined efforts to extinguish unionist culture and expression in Mid Ulster, most recently demonstrated by the council ban on the sale of poppies, I wanted to take a stand. TUV is the only party which has displayed uncompromising opposition to the Sinn Fein agenda and it is by voting TUV that unionists can send the clearest message that enough is enough when it comes to the never ending assaults of republicans on anything remotely British.” In the same press release, party leader Jim Allister said: “I am delighted that TUV are able to offer the people of Mid Ulster the opportunity to vote Gareth, a candidate with the dedication and ability to get the job done.”
With many thanks to: John Monaghan, The Irish News.