“He benefits from formidable references from the very highest echelons of our society.”

Sentenced to 20 years for the attempted murder, in 1981, of now-DUP councillor, Sammy Brush, former Provisional IRA member Gerry McGeough has been refused temporary release on compassionate bail to attend his son’s first holy communion.

That’s despite his barrister, Sean Devine’s, claim that his client “benefits from formidable references from the very highest echelons of our society.”

[And that would be? – Ed]  The erstwhile Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister, Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew…

It cut little ice with the NI Court of Appeal.  From the BBC report

The barrister also claimed it was likely that McGeough would only serve a fraction of his sentence under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He told the court: “Despite the seriousness of the offences he has been convicted of, and despite the awfulness of those offences, the fact remains he is going to be released in two years.”

However, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, said he was still “a sentenced prisoner”.

“The exceptional thing is he is going to get out in two years despite the fact he’s been convicted for the attempted murder of a postman,” he added.

“The reason for that is the passage of legislation.”

Refusing the application, Sir Declan ruled that the hurdle of “exceptional circumstances” had not been cleared.

He added: “The fact that there is no evidence of harm likely to be caused by him does not deal with the fact that a sentence was imposed on him in relation to matters of retribution and deterrence (for) significant life-threatening activity.”