What a wonderful weekend – such a fine tribute to 9 lovely men and their families – a fantastic turnout and I wish to take this opportunity to thank each one and all of you for coming out in such numbers to commemorate our relatives – a special thank you to all the 1916 societies who put together such a brilliant tribute to these men – to the bands and the flag bearers just a fantastic job and especially felt for you all in that heat today!!!!
I feel so privileged and so proud of everyone – these men and the families will never be forgotten and tomorrow at 7.25pm we will remember them quietly in our hearts and know that all of you will too😥Let us remember then with pride – let us never forget what happened that fateful day –
The 8th of May 1987
In the weeks prior to the 8th May a decision was taken to use overt and covert actions to stop the East Tyrone Brigade. Information was obtained that led to a carefully and deadly operation to be put in place. On the 7th May at 8.pm 24 SAS soldiers were briefed about the strategy to ambush the IRA as they made their attack on Loughgall barracks. At 2am the 24 SAS soldiers under the command of Soldier A were deployed to Loughgall ! They were divided into 6 groups and positioned strategically around the area of the barracks football pitch church and wooded areas. The design was to entrap the IRA as they launched their attack.
At 2.30pm on 8th May a blue hiace van was hijacked and at 6pm a yellow digger was hijacked from a nearby farm. The van and the digger are reported by the SAS as having passed the RUC barracks on a number of times before finally stopping opposite the barracks. There were also 3 RUC officers placed in the barracks to create a sense of normality to it that day – these three were accompanied by 6 of the SAS .
At 19.23 the van stops opposite the barracks Patrick Kelly leaves the passenger side and moves into a position opposite the barracks. He is accompanied by Tony and Seamus and they fire shots at the front of the station. At the same time the digger with Declan and Gerard on it crashes through the perimeter fence. The bomb is ignited. Jim and Padraig emerge from the back of the van. The SAS have opened fire – Patrick moves to the front of the van and fires shots at the SAS – Tony and Seamus move to the side of the van but are shot fatally there and fall side by side. Patrick is fatally wounded on the roadside at the front right hand side of the van. Eugene the driver of the van is fatally shot in the drivers seat. Jim and Padraig get back into the back of the van but are fatally wounded and fall side by side. Gerard tries to get back to the van to get a weapon but the explosion causes the van door to close and he tries to get up the road but is fatally wounded and falls on the pavement. Declan unable to get a weapon gets into the football field but is wounded by the SAS there manages to climb over the wall in the lane way but is fatally wounded there. Gerard and Declan were both unarmed. All eight IRA men are dead within 10 minutes!
At the same time the Hughes brothers Anthony and Oliver are returning home from helping to fix a friends machine. They have passed through The road a few times that day – their car had been noted! On heading home they come over the brow of the hill just past St Luke’s Church. The bomb explodes and they see the shooting – Anthony stops the car and is about to reverse to go home a different way and they are shot from the back. 26 of the 34 shots fired at their car were from the back. Anthony is killed and Oliver is severely wounded- Oliver opens his door. And tries to get out and is shot three times in the head. These same soldiers walk down through the the carnage and meeet up with Soldier A then return up towards the Hughes car and see an RUC sergeant approaching from
Loughgall village and attend to Oliver Hughes and administer first aid. An ambulance is sent for and Oliver is taken to craigavon hospital and then transferred to the royal- nine men lie dead!
With many thanks to: Maireadp Kelly.