Help Remember Liam Ryan
“We will have you up at the Battery for a free drink,” Liam Ryan joked, mixing Tyrone wit and Republican spirit, at my news of traveling to Dublin for weekend meetings between the Irish Northern Aid executive and Sinn Fein leadership. The same British ban used as a pretext for the Royal Ulster Constabulary murder of John Downes during their attack on a peaceful rally in Belfast, would insure that we might meet in Dublin, or Monaghan, but not in the Battery Bar in Ardboe, County Tyrone.
“Our friends have been about this last week,” he continued. It was a sort of Republican speak or code, meaning that the Royal Ulster Constabulary backed by British troopers had been patrolling heavily in the Ardboe area.
He added, “I may be back in the Bronx with you but will say more when I see you.” These words were ominous. My friend, Liam Ryan, had spent years in New York saving hard earned dollars with a dream of going home to Ardboe and buying the Battery Bar on scenic of Lough Neagh. He had married happily and was the proud father of a young son. For Liam to hint at leaving Ardboe meant that he was under serious threat which he would not talk about on a likely tapped telephone line, but would explain when we met.
I would never see him again. The following evening the crown forces which had been flooding the Ardboe area, would suddenly disappear. At closing, as Liam Ryan stood by the door, a loyalist death squad would arrive at precisely the correct time and place. Liam Ryan would be murdered as he attempted to slam the door shut and protect those patrons still inside. One of the customers would also be killed by a rifle powerful enough to permanently scar the structure.
There would be little doubt that British patrols had help pick and pinpoint Liam Ryan for death. It was taken for granted that the British had shepherded and shielded the arrival and escape of the murder gang. The RUC eventually arrived, smug smiles belying any pretense of sympathy.
My friend had been murdered. His son would grow up without a father; his wife was heartbroken, his parents, brothers and sisters devastated.
Many in New York and beyond shared their sorrow. He had lived at 3805 Review Place in the Bronx, was a member of Clan Na Gael, supporter of Irish Northern Aid, Con Ed employee, frequent visitor to Gaelic Park and involved with many Tyrone groups. He became an American citizen but never forgot Ireland or his hopes that one day his native Tyrone would enjoy the same freedom and economic opportunities that he had found in America.
An Independent Republican Commemoration is being organized by Liam Ryan’s family in Ardboe, County Tyrone for November 29, 2014, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his murder. We have been asked to organize short video interviews with many of those who knew and remember him, to be played in Ardboe as part of the commemoration.
Anyone wishing to participate should call 718-324-8726.