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25 May 2012 Edition

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Loughgall Martyrs remembered

HUNDREDS REMEMBER FALLEN VOLUNTEERS | NINE PEAKS ‘WALK FOR FREEDOM’

• Fermanagh and Strabane climbers at ‘Volunteer Tony Gormley Peak’

In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights found the British Government guilty of violating the human rights of the men cut down that day

HUNDREDS of republicans from across Tyrone and all over Ireland have taken part in a series of events on the theme ‘The 25th Anniversary of the Loughgall Ambush’ to mark the SAS killing of eight IRA Volunteers and a civilian.

The ambush, part of the British Government’s shoot-to-kill policy, took place on 8 May 1987 and saw dozens of undercover British troops and SAS gunmen ambush a unit of the IRA’s East Tyrone Brigade at Loughgall Barracks in Armagh.

The IRA Volunteers were cut down by more than 600 rounds fired from concealed positions. Other IRA Volunteers who escaped the ambush reported seeing their comrades shot on the ground as they lay wounded.

During the attack, another vehicle belonging to two workmen drove into the free-fire-zone. SAS troopers poured gunfire into the car, killing a civilian and seriously wounding another. It was the worst loss suffered by the IRA in one operation since the Tan War. In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights found the British Government guilty of violating the human rights of the men cut down that day.

In the first of a series of events to mark the ambush, more than 150 hikers braved the elements on 5 May to climb the Sperrins Mountains as part of the ‘Walk for Freedom’. The route, across the Tyrone/Derry border, took in nine peaks to represent each of the men killed  that fateful evening in 1987.

Sinn Féin East Tyrone chairperson Paul Kelly described all the men killed at Loughgall as having “a deep appreciation of our beautiful country and its people” and  “as such, this was a very fitting way to commemorate their sacrifice”.

On 7 May, more than 250 people packed into the Ryandale in Moy to attend the 25th Anniversary Loughgall Memorial Lecture, ‘From Clonmult to Loughgall: The IRA’s War Against the British Army in Ireland’.

The event was chaired by Francie Molloy MLA with speeches by leading republicans Arnie O’Connell from Cork and Seán Hughes from south Armagh. The lecture focused on the similiarities between the killings at Loughgall and the execution of 12 IRA Volunteers by Black and Tans after they had surrendered at a farmhouse in the Cork town of Clonmult in 1921.

Martin McGuinness at Cappagh

The main commemoration took place at the Republican Monument in Cappagh on 8 May and was timed to coincide with the actual date and time of the ambush 25 years ago.

Speaking at the event, Sinn Féin MP Martin McGuinness said he was “proud and honoured” to pay tribute to the nine men killed that day.

Describing the eight Volunteers as “immensely courageous”, Martin McGuinness said they were people of the “highest calibre” who “continue to be held in the highest regard” by communities across Ireland and beyond. “Tyrone is one of the most republican counties in Ireland and people here clearly understand and accept the Sinn Féin strategy,” he said. “We have an alternative way forward using political means and I never want to see another young person going to jail as a result of the political situation in this country.”

In his closing remarks, McGuinness said republicans must continue to show leadership while moving forward with conifdence towards the ultimate goal of a reunified, sovereign republic. “This is something we owe to future generations, to the Loughgall Martyrs and to the hundreds of other people who have laid down their lives in the cause of Irish freedom,” he said.

Seán Lynch MLA and Councillor Bronwyn McGahan took part in the climb

Seán Lynch MLA and Councillor Bronwyn McGahan took part in the climb

Sick SAS ‘victory’ flag erected at massacre site

THERE was shock and revulsion after an SAS flag was erected in the centre of Loughgall on the anniversary of the Loughgall Ambush. The flag carried the SAS crest and the phrase “SAS 9-0”, a reference to the eight IRA Volunteers and civilian cut down by the SAS.

The flag was spotted by Máiread Kelly, the sister of IRA Volunteer Patrick Kelly, as she laid flowers at the scene of her brother’s death.

Sinn Féin Newry/Armagh MLA Cathal Boylan immediately contacted the PSNI to have the flag removed and this was done.

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