‘Stop fighting a war that is over’ - O’Neill
‘Stop fighting a war that is over’ - O’Neill


Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill caused a controversy by her participation in the party’s event to commemorate the deaths of eight IRA Volunteers in east Tyrone, during which she called for a complete end to armed actions.

Ms O’Neill took part in the republican parade on Sunday to mark 30 years since the murderous ambush by British SAS troops at Loughgall.

The IRA Volunteers shot were: Jim Lynagh, Padraig McKearney, Gerard O’Callaghan, Tony Gormley, Eugene Kelly, Paddy Kelly, Seamus Donnelly and Declan Arthurs. All were experienced IRA fighters. Paddy Kelly was the IRA’s leader in east Tyrone at the time.

An innocent civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also shot dead and his brother seriously injured as the SAS opened fire on their car in the belief that they were also part of the IRA unit.

Last weekend, large crowds gathered at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Altmore and paraded to the IRA memorial in the village of Cappagh.

Family members of the dead men carried their photographs to the memorial.

Ms O’Neill told people gathered for the commemoration that republicans “are proud of our freedom struggle”, but that the war is “now over”.

She said that victims and survivors of the conflict who sought justice and truth, must be given the strongest possible support and assistance.

“While much of our history has been marked by sadness and tragedy, we now have a unique opportunity to be the authors of a new, peaceful, and democratic future,” she said.

“This does not mean we forget our past. Everyone has a legitimate right to remember their dead, tell their side of the story and share their experiences, and hurt, of that time, without being demonised.

“I challenge our opponents to stop fighting a war which is now over. There is an onus on all of us to move forward to create a free, just and equal society - together.”

In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights found the rights of those killed at Loughgall had been violated. In 2014, the Hughes family received an apology.

Ahead of the event, Ms O’Neill was criticised for her participation by unionists. Ultra-hardliner Jim Allister ironically condemned her involvement as he was taking part in the a commemoration for the UDR, the British Army’s deadliest regiment.

Ms O’Neill said everyone has a legitimate right to remember their dead without being demonised.

“Let me be clear. I am an Irish republican,” she said.

“Make no mistake about it - I will always remember and commemorate our patriot dead - and each of our fallen comrades who gave their lives for Irish freedom.”

She added: “I see no contradiction whatsoever in commemorating our republican dead while reaching out to our unionist neighbours to build the future - Orange and Green together on the basis of full equality and mutual respect.”

Family members of the Loughgall martyrs will also remember them at an independent republican parade in County Tyrone this Sunday. The parade, which will include several bands, has been organised in conjunction with the 1916 Societies. It will begin at Galbally Community Centre at 3pm before making its way to a memorial in Cappagh. Organisers say the event is non-party political and everyone is welcome.

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