15 November 2007 Edition

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North Armagh marks 25th anniversary

John O’Dowd addressing the commemoration

John O’Dowd addressing the commemoration

THIS YEAR marks the 25th anniversary of the murder of six men in the North Armagh area by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) as part of a series of summary executions by British state forces. The policy became known as ‘shoot-to-kill’.
All six murders were carried out between 11 November and 12 December 1982.
On the evening of 11 November 1982, IRA Volunteers Gervase McKerr, Sean Burns and Eugene Toman were travelling along the Tullygally East Road. Their car was ambushed and riddled with bullets by RUC members who claimed falsely that the unarmed men crashed through a checkpoint. Evidence presented at the trial of the three RUC men charged with murdering Eugene Toman pointed to the fact he had been shot in the back while exiting the car. Needless to say, no British court was going to send its agents to jail and all three were found not guilty.
On 24 November in the same year, two young men, Michael Tighe and Martin McCauley, were shot at a hayshed which had been under surveillance by the RUC on the Ballynerry Road North, just outside Lurgan. Seventeen-year-old Tighe was killed and McCauley was seriously injured when the RUC opened fire on them. Neither man was involved in any republican organisation although McCauley was later charged in relation to the incident. An inquiry set up two years later under the direction of John Stalker, Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, found that the ambush was “cold-blooded murder”. Despite this, and ignoring recommendations that conspiracy to murder charges should be pursued, no prosecutions were ever initiated.
This was not the end of the killings.
On 12 December 1982, two unarmed INLA members, Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll, were shot dead in Mullacreevie Park in Armagh City. Both men were unarmed. Roddy Carroll was shot from a distance of six feet. Seamus Grew was shot from a distance of two feet by the same RUC officer. A British court later acquitted the RUC man responsible.
A website and a memorial committee were created a number of months ago in order to remember the tragic events of 1982 and to pay tribute to the murdered men and their families who for years have campaigned for truth and justice.
The memorial committee feels that the tragic events of 1982 should be remembered and over recent months have been raising money in order to create a permanent memorial for the men that died and to produce a DVD about the events of 1982.
Last weekend marked the anniversary of their deaths and a number of events took place to mark this. Starting on Friday evening, a memorial céilí took place in Clann na Gael CLG in Lurgan, where an auction was also held to raise finances for the memorial garden. On Saturday afternoon, two murals were unveiled in the Taghnevan estate in the three men’s memory as it was Taghnevan the men left from on the night they were killed.
Later that afternoon, the memorial garden was formally unveiled by representatives of the men’s families at Tullygally East Road, where the men were killed. The North Armagh Roll of Honour was read by a friend of the three men, Crístín McCauley.
The main speaker of the day was local MLA John O’Dowd, who spoke of the tenacity of the men’s families in their pursuit of justice.  On Saturday night a republican function was held in Lurgan where a booklet with contributions from friends and comrades of the three men was officially launched.  The weekend of events culminated on Sunday evening with a candlelit vigil at the new memorial garden.
Commenting on the weekend of events, memorial committee member Sinn Féin Councillor Johnny McGibbon, said:
“The turn-out at this weekends events is indicative of the strength of feeling that still exists about the way in which these men met their deaths and sends out an important message to people like Hugh Orde that any attempt to block the search for truth and justice will ultimately fail.”

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