Last night marked 26 years from the shootings at the Battery, when on a cold November night on the shores of Lough Neagh, near the village of Ardboe, Liam Ryan – a young man with a world of possibilities at his feet and the rest of his life to live out – was taken from his loved ones, murdered in front of his wife by terrorist cowards in the pay of the British government.
Fuair sé bhás ar son saoirse na hÉireann – ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
One day the truth will out of the state-sponsored ‘war by proxy’ assassination campaign waged against the nationalist people here – a ruthless, though futile, attempt to break the republican community in East Tyrone. Truth can only be concealed for so long and the truth of Liam’s killing, and of Michael Devlin’s who was murdered alongside him, will one day be told in all its horror, no matter the lengths the British might go to hide it.
Liam Ryan for a time lived and worked in the Bronx, New York, where he had a great job with Con-Edison, the power company. He could have stayed there and contributed to the struggle from afar – as he did – and no-one would have thought any different. But he could not stand by and returned home to his native Moortown to confront Britain’s war against our people, a decision that was to cost him his life.
Liam knew only too well the dangers that came with the republican struggle, having been present but narrowly escaping the Loughgall ambush, where eight of his comrades and a passing civilian were shot dead by British Special Forces on 8th May 1987. In the run-up to his death two years later, the harassment of republicans in the Ardboe area intensified, Liam himself being told by local RUC he would not see Christmas Day. The die had been cast, the sights set. Murder would come to Ardboe.
On 29th November 1989, Liam Ryan was closing up his premises at the Battery Bar, with the last of his customers finishing their drinks inside. A British death squad broke through the front door, shooting Liam and civilian Michael Devlin in the hallway. Only that Liam had the presence of mind to block the murderers gaining entry to the bar itself, slamming the door closed despite being wounded, the death toll would likely have been much higher.
Liam Ryan died in the arms of his wife in that hallway, Mickey Devlin beside him. Britain’s terror machine had struck again, with paid assassins in collusion with the security forces, who withdrew from the area to allow the attack to proceed, given safe passage to do their ghastly deed – not for the first time and nor for the last.
In Tyrone we are forever indebted to those like Liam, who put ending British occupation in our country ahead of even their own lives. We will never turn our backs on these men, our commitment to achieve the Republic for which they died only the stronger when we reflect on their selfless commitment to its cause.
An beannacht Dé a bheith orthu – bhfianaise an mac Dia a bheith ar a n-anamacha.
The struggle for which Liam gave his life has not yet ended and it is ourselves, taking inspiration from his legacy, who must rebuild the Republican Movement and achieve Irish freedom, that beautiful thing for which he paid the supreme sacrifice. Rest in peace Liam, your death was not in vain. Our revenge will be the laughter of our children in a united and free Ireland.