Commemoration of first IRA Volunteer to die in North

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Republicans in Tyrone have marked the 100th anniversary of the first Volunteer killed on active service in the IRA’s Northern Campaign during the War of Independence.

Patrick Loughran died on June 18 1920 after a raid on a Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks in Cookstown.

The attack on Cookstown barracks came after the IRA issued a directive to destroy vacated RIC stations across Ireland. Those involved had intended to remove all weapons and ammunition before burning the station down.

Similar operations had been carried out at other RIC stations in County Tyrone including Donaghmore and Castlecaufield.

The raid was led by the IRA’s Dungannon Battalion ‘Officer Commanding’ Tom Leonard and William J Kelly Jnr. His grandson Paddy Kelly was one of eight IRA men shot dead in an SAS ambush at Loughgall in Co Armagh in 1987.

It later emerged that four RIC men stationed in Cookstown had helped local republicans plan the raid.

After the IRA men gained entry to the station they removed their shoes as they travelled through the barracks, seizing weapons and taking RIC officers captive.

However, the plot failed after an RIC officer fired on the IRA men through a locked door, striking Patrick Loughran twice.

It was reported that the IRA and RIC members were involved in a fierce gun battle before republicans eventually withdrew from the area.

After being taken to a safe house an attempt was made to transport the wounded Mr Loughran to hospital.

A car carrying him was stopped by police at Newmills and redirected to Dungannon hospital before he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where he died.

Thousands of people queued to view his remains at St Patrick’s Church in Dungannon. Around 2,500 IRA members accompanied his funeral through the town while members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians also took part in the cortege. A graveside oration was delivered by Denis McCullough, a former leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.

In 1970 thousands also gathered for his 50th anniversary and a new headstone was erected at his grave in Dungannon.

Five years ago, his portrait was located through family connections in Dublin. Tyrone National Graves Association recently restored the distinctive headstone ahead of the 100th anniversary.

Members of the Thomas Clarke 1916 Society in Dungannon had planned a large parade to mark the centenary but due to coronavirus restrictions this was replaced by a simple wreath laying ceremony, which took place on Thursday.

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