Derry man was a ‘brave and courageous soldier’

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Dozens of republicans joined members of his family this week to pay tribute to Eamonn Lafferty, the first IRA Volunteer killed by British forces in the conflict in Derry.

Eamonn was 19 when he was killed in a gun battle with British troops at Kildrum Gardens on August 18, 1971, 50 years ago this week.

He was among a small IRA unit attempting to prevent the British Army from invading Creggan at the height of the nationalist uprising against internment which had been introduced on August 9, 1971.

Kevin Campbell, a former Sinn Féin mayor and ex-IRA prisoner, described Eamonn as ‘a brave and courageous soldier of the IRA who paid the ultimate price in defence of his people’.

Mr Campbell, delivering the main oration at the commemoration on Wednesday, characterised the young republican as a defender of his community.

“Eamonn and a few of his comrades took on the might of the British Army here at this spot 50 years ago as they attempted a raid into the area. On the morning of August 18, 1971 a raiding party of the British Army attempted to make an incursion into the Creggan estate.

“Eamonn and a few of his comrades, on hearing the news, made their way to Kildrum to fend off the enemy.

“As they arrived a fierce gun battle ensued and Eamonn and his comrades found themselves immersed in the thick of the battle. This handful of brave IRA volunteers fought off literally hundreds of British soldiers trying to get into Creggan. Eventually they were out gunned and out manned and Eamonn was shot dead at this very spot 50 years ago. Eamonn Lafferty and his comrades succeeded in their mission that day, the British army failed to enter the Creggan.”

At the time of his death the IRA said he had been adjutant of the IRA unit involved in the gun battle.

“Lt. Lafferty led a section of Volunteers in defence of the Kildrum Gardens area and after a long battle, during which the British forces suffered many casualties, the section was ordered to withdraw.

“During the withdrawal Lt. Lafferty was wounded and as he fell, the enemy moved in and continued to fire. It was at this stage that Lt. Lafferty received the fatal wounds,” a statement signed ‘O/C Derry’ declared.

At this week’s commemoration Mr Campbell said he didn’t know the 19-year-old baker at the time but ‘grew up in his shadow’.

“Like hundreds of other IRA Volunteers in this city who came after him, he was our inspiration and we all took our example from him.

“The IRA 50 years ago was a small tight knit group of Volunteers with a support network of a small number of Republican families but as they grew and expanded, under the inspiration of the likes of Óglach Eamon Lafferty in this city and across Ireland the IRA became the most effective guerrilla organisation in western Europe, where other down trodden countries have taken their inspiration and lead from.

“As we gather here tonight to commemorate our fallen comrade Óglach Eamon Lafferty I would call on all Republicans in this city to re-dedicate themselves to the republic that the likes of Óglach Eamonn Lafferty gave his life for.”

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