Yesterday a friend and I went to Coalisland to meet a group of people and when the meeting was over one of the lads asked if we'd been to plots in Edendork and Brackaville which aren't too far away from the town. Both of us are into history and we said we'd love to go because we hadn't been to those particular parts of East Tyrone.
As we drove to them we talked about the number of IRA Volunteers from the whole county who were killed and the more we discussed it it brought back many memories. Like other Brigades in the early 70s the IRA lost Volunteers either making bombs or transporting them to targets and this no doubt forced engineers to come up with more safety measures.
As the years went by the IRA became more proficient in bomb making and became an even bigger threat to the British. As in previous struggles the British responded with more aggression but this didn't deter a determined army. From the late 1980s through to the ceasefires of 1994 and 97 the IRA wreaked havoc not only here in Ireland but in Britain and some countries in Europe. The British were that concerned about a possible IRA victory they sent in even more British soldiers and trained members of the RUC who were involved in a shoot-to-kill policy. I'm sure most of of the Volunteers were prepared for it and as we read in history books many went out heavily armed and the Brits knew it wouldn't be easy taking them on.
The East Tyrone Brigade lost many volunteers at this time and as we stood in the rain looking at the names of some of those Volunteers we wondered what they they would make of the situation today None of us can speak for the dead and all we can do is speculate and it saddens many of us when we see some former comrades of those very volunteers in Stormont, Leinster House and Westminster do what was anathema to what they once done.
We shouldn't dwell on the past. But when visiting the graves of dead volunteers, people who helped and civilians cut down by the RUC, British army and unionist gangs, we can't help think of where it all went wrong. Much has been written and discussed about it and much more will be written but if we want to achieve a Socialist Republic we can't just visit graveyards and reminisce. Times are hard and in the coming months it will get even harder but if we are positive anything is possible.