Prominent republican Gerry McGeough has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for an IRA attack on an off-duty British soldier 30 years ago.
The non-jury Diplock court jailed Mr McGeough for the attack on the Ulster Defence Regiment soldier in Aughnacloy in June 1981.
Sinn Fein’s Michelle Gildernew had supplied a reference for Mr McGeough, who is a former member of the Sinn Fein leadership.
The Six-County agriculture minister said the prosecution should not have happened because the attack took place before the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is clear that an anomaly has arisen around some of these historical cases - a fact acknowledged by the British government some time ago along with a commitment to rectify the situation,” she said.
Justice Stephens, sitting at Belfast Crown Court, imposed the 20-year jail term, declaring that there is “a clear need to deter other terrorists”.
The sentencing came in the midst of a major government media campaign to counter support for republican ‘dissidents’ in the North. Although there has been no claim of responsibility, breakaway IRA groups have been blamed for an attack in County Tyrone on Saturday which killed a member of the PSNI.
“There should be a clear message to others that no matter how long is the time that elapses and no matter what changes occur in a terrorist’s way of life, that condign punishment will be imposed for committing such offences once they have been brought to justice,” the judge ruled, without a jury.
“There is a continuing and compelling need to deter all other potential terrorists.”
The judgment found McGeough showed “no remorse” and noted that he was considered a leader within the Provisional IRA.
Another man to face the court, Vincent McAnespie, a supporter of the political process, was previously acquitted of the charges against him.
Mr McGeough, from Dungannon, is married with children aged 10, eight, six and two. He has a serious heart condition.
It has not yet been confirmed if he will be licensed for early release under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Under the Agreement, two years is the maximum sentence to be served by prisoners for acts carried out prior to the Agreement.
However, a number of republicans have been compelled to complete their full sentences after they were considered to be a threat to the political process.