22 February 2007 Edition

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Clonoe Martyrs remembered

Sinn Féin candidate Francie Molloy speaking the commemoration, Clonoe, outside Coalisland, County Tyrone

Sinn Féin candidate Francie Molloy speaking the commemoration, Clonoe, outside Coalisland, County Tyrone

A large crowd of republicans gathered at Clonoe Graveyard outside Coalisland, County Tyrone on Saturday, 17 February. They were there to commemorate the deaths of IRA Volunteers Seán O’Farrell, Kevin Barry O’Donnell, Patrick Vincent and Peter Clancy, who were executed by the SAS on 16 February 1992.

The ceremony was chaired by Michelle O’Neill and was attended by Sinn Féin’s Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness, as well as local MLA Francie Molloy.

Tyrone republican and former POW Brian Arthurs delivered the main oration.

“Twenty years ago, I remember being in a room or a shed in Cappagh with Tony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, Seamus Donnelly and my brother Deaglan, where there was a constant battle between them to see who could get the dangerous part in the next operation. And when they all lost their lives at Loughgall in 1987, I was convinced that their remarkable commitment, dedication and sheer bravery would never be matched.

“I was wrong. Barely a year later, I found myself in this area talking to Seán, Barry, Paddy and Peter, who illustrated the same remarkable intelligence as revolutionary soldiers. They were all equally committed and dedicated as the Volunteers who went before them.  Their unit was one of the most active in Tyrone and indeed within the IRA.

“They delivered the war to our enemies in whatever tactical ways imaginable, not only here but on the foreign shores, where our enemies had some lucky escapes - and fortunately some did not.

“The Brits knew only too well the threat that this unit posed. Imprisonment didn’t deflect or deter Seán or Barry, who spent remand periods here and in England. On release both immediately reported back to the ranks of Óglaigh na hÉireann.

“Peter had only just returned from Monaghan after being injured in a daring attack on the local DMSU and Paddy, under pressure to keep his involvement in the IRA  secret, due to where he lived, was always mindful of his own personal security and done whatever was asked of him.

“The constant arrests and abuse at RUC/UDR and Brit checkpoints and the threats from pro-British loyalist forces were no deterrent to these volunteers.  That is why mercenary soldiers from the SAS lay behind that hedge and ambushed our comrades in the manner they did.

“But our imperialist foe never learned that oppression breeds resistance, and many more young men and women joined the ranks of Óglaigh na hÉireann and continued this struggle to the present day. 

“In all its shapes and forms, with the difficult challenges we face in today’s revolution, which has led us into this political arena where we face a battle a day to achieve our ultimate goals of Irish unity, victory some day will be ours.

“To conclude, I am proud to have known these men and ask that their stories be told for generations to come. For these volunteers were the Tom Barrys and Dan Breens of our generation. These men are our heroes.”


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