Loughgall Martyrs Remembered At Site Of Ambush 29 Years On From Their Deaths

From the 1916 Societies, Loughall remembered.

To mark the 29th anniversary of the murder by British state terrorists at Loughgall of Volunteers Patrick Kelly, Tony Gormley, Séamus Donnelly, Jim Lynagh, Gerry O’Callaghan, Declan Arthurs, Eugene Kelly and Padraig McKearney, remembering civilian Anthony Hughes also, the Gifford-Plunkett Society Armagh City, accompanied by relatives of the Loughgall Martyrs, visited the County Armagh village to lay floral tributes.

A solemn and moving occasion, Francie O’Callaghan and Roisin Kelly placed wreaths at the very spot where their loved ones were struck down. Following a recital of a prayer, Francie and Roisin expressed their thanks to our cumann for our efforts in remembering their loved ones. Roisin also expressed to us the pain and anguish the families still endure but how in spite of that they remain determined to hold the British state to account for the murderous deeds committed by their forces 29 years ago.

We would like to thank Francie and Roisin for allowing us to join them in paying homage to their loved ones and their fellow comrades. We were humbled by their words of thanks. We are also struck by the dignity and stoic resolution they continue to display.

We left that village rededicated to the aims and objectives for which these gallant Irish soldiers gave off their lives. We left that village determined to counter any narrative – be it by revisionists, West Brits or British state apologists – that would seek to diminish those aims and objectives. We left that village convinced the only way to truly honour these fallen Irish republicans is to up our efforts to ensure those aims and objectives are achieved.


  1. Visited this spot myself with Tommy McKearney just after release from the jail. Can remember very clearly the night it happened, a Friday. We were not long locked up and the first reports were coming through of heavy casualties. The doors banged as the lads were thinking it was the Brits taking a hit. I recall saying to a guy from West Belfast on the other side of the wing it would be more prudent to delay judgement. The wing was like a morgue the following morning. I suppose we should be philosophical and take the view that this is what happens in war. But emotion and philosophy don't gel particularly well.

  2. Hesitating before I write this as even though coming from the 'other' community I still don't wish to put any more anguish on the families, friends and comrades here on TPQ.

    I remember this well, though my memory seems to tell me it was a Sunday morning we heard the news but I'm happy to be put right in this.

    Having family members in the RUC and in various rural areas our first thought was of extreme panic that one of them was dead, given the first confusing reports. As the morning progressed and it became apparent that it was SAS operation I admit to a degree of schadenfreude, one against the 'enemy' so to speak and a big one at that.

    Awful sometimes, the ignorance of youth, and callous. But lets not kid ourselves or revise the past to suit our own narratives either.

    There were two sets of heavily armed men shooting at each other, and if the shoe was on the other foot and this was an ambush of British Forces would the IRA have shown mercy?

  3. Steve,

    I would not expect you to feel other than what you did. It was war and there was a certain acceptance within the IRA that this is what happens in war and that it is not a case of we shoot you die. The opposition in war will always shoot back. Would the IRA have shown mercy? Teebane 5 years later should answer your question. A plain, simple no.

    I think the main bone of contention about Loughall is that it seems to have been another example of the state forces breaking the law they were supposed to be upholding in the face of an IRA threat. That probably sounds legalistic to people of your perspective but the pattern has been so well established across the decades, that for many nationalists, it raises serious questions.

    Could the state have sorted it in another way? For sure. They had the intelligence but Jack Hermon just prior to it promised tangible results and this is what they were. The state, for strategic reasons, wanted kills not arrests.

  4. AM,

    It doesn't sound legalistic but it always struck the 'PUL' community as being a bit bewildering that the RM were complaining about collusion and this type of State Military action when they held no allegiance to the state anyway.

    Kind of 'your heavily armed men with 200kgs of anfo in a stolen JCB, you caught a dose and still complain about it'? At the time apart from the arseholes like Paisley even the ordinary prod was scratching their head wondering why they were complaining.

    Knowing now much, much more about the history of the Nationalist community I understand the reasons behind the armed actions, but this history was never shown to us. Only relatively recently had I even heard about the Paras in Ballymurphy. Incidentally all the military in my family hated the paras, said they were animals.

    May none of it ever happen again.

  5. Anyone setting out on a mission accepted the fact they in all likelyhood may not be returning home. Simple as that. Knowing what we do now about the infestation of touts it the jeopardy was even more magnified than realised, unbeknown to those involved. I think the legalities are mere propaganda from the republican side and a broadening of the war in attacking the concept of law and order in the same way as blowing up a police station. I don't think that was relevant to the volunteer at the cutting edge. Possibly to family or non combatants. I personally get embarrassed at the yapping about shoot to kill in armed situations. The unarmed incidents to me where security forces with grade A intel' deliberately shot unarmed targets I find different. Something very cowardly in that. As for Loughgall, anyone engaging in IRA activity after the events of shoot to kill and Loughgall knew what they were doing. They had enough warning. Or perhaps 'motivation' is a better word.

  6. I recall that evening as well. Head the explosion and heard initial reports of large casualties. But the haste in which dozens upon dozens of RUC land rovers sped to the scene suggested very quickly that this was a set up and that the casualties were republican. Btw the roaring and cheering and stamping of feet coming from inside those passing land rovers has always stuck with me. A lot of young kids observing that conduct would've very quickly made up their mind what side they were on.

  7. That brigade left one of those legacies that actually grows with age. Especially in a era of ‘fake fronts’ in both the commercial and political centrers in the North.

    PS Remembering Anthony Hughes was thoughtful.

  8. Steve,

    people campaign against capital punishment across the world not because they think the person being killed is angelic or innocent but because they think it deeply unethical for a state to be taking life in such circumstances. If we take a serial child killer like Robert Black who died in Maghaberry earlier this year, what possible sympathy could we have for him? But if we oppose capital punishment we don't qualify it by excluding him from our opposition.

    I don't expect the unionist community to have sympathy for the Loughall volunteers. Just as I have none for the Paras at Narrow Water.

  9. David, you are right about those who died at Loughgall leaving a legacy that grows with the passage of time. That's a beautiful sentiment. There was a commemoration at Drumfurrer on the day of the anniversary which I attended with my wife. John Crawley gave a magnificent tribute to the lads, coupled with a devastating critique of the then republican leadership and their unfolding strategy. I imagine it'll be up here on TPQ shortly. Some of it is insightful in terms of the debates that have gone on here lately, with a massive dose of sticking the knife in. Crawley addressed this in his speech and spoke of the need not to 'desert our posts' - as the lads had not. I am thankful that there are still men like John Crawley to keep the younger generation as our own strong in heart and mind, when you read it you'll appreciate what I mean and I guarantee you'll enjoy it.

  10. I saw a programe on TV about Narrow Water and the Paras who survived it. They were basket cases re-telling the experience. Crying and shaking decades later and never the same after it. Just shows you, there's no hard men when on the recieving end of a good hiding. They weren't stiffing civies that day.

  11. Thanks Sean I will look out for it.

  12. Steve

    I would imagine that those who were killed (accept 1 civilian) had considered the dangers as you relate them and were not discouraged. The Brits were denying it was a war but using war rules of engagement. If the members of this IRA Unit were not soldiers and there was no war then domestic and international law prohibits any state from planning, ambushing and summarily executing its own citizens -even if for political reasons.

    These sort of details are contested in various situations around the world. There are many war movies (more Japanese prison camps than German ones) were Brits similarly complain where they are not being properly treated as POWs, or for example, if an officer has been hanged as a criminal rather than shot by firing squad.

  13. AM,

    I see your point. I suppose its more about time we recognize the past holds different but equally valid emotions for the two communities.

    I spoke to an ex-soldier years back, who was in a position to know, and he said that it was not any informer that betrayed Loughall, but BritInt were aware of the strategy of hitting remote deserted RUC stations. They then found a stolen JCB and put it under surveillance working out it was loughall to be hit by observing the recce. They then sat in wait. When it went noisy one of the provos clearly displayed military training in the SAS's opinion, which lead to eyebrows being raised as to who trained him. A very dirty war, no doubt.

    Christy and Larry,

    Very true.

  14. Steve Ricardos

    That could be a valid point. I remember about that time my dad and myself were in Aghalee near Lurgan and there was a wee part time barracks there. There was also a digger parked a mile or so from it which I odd / funny at the time. However after finally finding where he was looking for and doing my oul fellas message to Aghalee we were pulled over on our way home by an unmarked RUC car and my oul fellas car pulled apart. We must have looked like we were casing the place out. It seemed very much to me in hind-sight the wee barracks was staked out and the digger a 'come-on'. This was just before Loughgall. So I certainly give your suggestion more than a healthy helping of truth. The oul fella was livid, he worked in Shorts at the time. hahaha