News

Armagh security force memorial to be built

Thursday, 19 January 2017

ORGANISERS behind a fundraising drive for a memorial wall to victims of the Troubles in County Armagh are hopeful construction work will start earlier than expected.

County Armagh Phoenix Group Ltd - which supports former members of the security forces - has already raised 70,000 over the past 12 months and further fundraising initiatives are planned throughout 2017.

The group - which was formed in 2007 - is aiming to erect a commemorative wall to honour the courage and sacrifice of the hundreds of members of the security forces who laid down their lives.

Members of the group have already identified 316 names of members who were from County Armagh and killed elsewhere, or who died as a result of terrorist attacks in the area.

Although County Armagh is the smallest of the six counties, it suffered disproportionately to its size and had the highest percentage of security force deaths in Northern Ireland during the terrorist campaign.

Almost 25 per cent of military personnel deaths - including the Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Irish Regiment - occurred locally.

In addition, 16 per cent of the Northern Ireland Prison Service members' deaths were witnessed within County Armagh.

Almost one third (33 per cent) of murders of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who died during the period known as 'Operation Banner', took place in County Armagh.

Uniquely members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary - whose names will also be included on the new memorial wall - were subjected to terrorist attacks dating back to the formation of Northern Ireland in 1922 and several members were murdered.

Permission has been granted from the Church of Ireland to erect the memorial wall within the grounds of St Mark's Church in Armagh.

The main feature will be a series of stone tablets bearing, in chronological order, the name, rank and date of death of each member of the security forces killed.

County Armagh Phoenix Group chairman, David Hammerton has hailed the generosity of the local community, who have played a key role in helping to turn the plan into a reality.

He told the Ulster Gazette: "Since we started to fundraise in earnest in January 2016, having received the last of the necessary permissions needed to erect this wall, we have raised just over 70,000 towards our target of 100,000.

"Throughout 2016 we held a number of fundraising events, street collections and a 'buy-a-brick' scheme.

"We are very grateful for every single donation, no matter how small, from all those who have given so generously.

"Throughout the past year we have continuously been shocked at everyone's generosity and cannot thank everyone enough.

"There are more fundraising events planned for 2017 as we push to reach our target and get building work underway.

"Whilst we acknowledge that everyone within our own member groups has knowledge of these plans, we acknowledge our own failure to make everyone outside of that close-knit community aware of who we are and what we aim to do. It will be one of our goals in 2017 to rectify this short-coming.

"All branches of the security forces stood shoulder to shoulder to defend all sections of the community from barbaric terrorist attacks for over 30 years and it is fitting that those who paid with their lives should be remembered together."

Amongst the upcoming fundraising initiatives planned is a Service of Hymns of Faith and Hope, which will take place in St Mark's Church, Armagh, on Sunday, February 5 at 7pm.

Hosted by Mr Paul Clark, it will consist of a number of people being interviewed by the television presenter with regards to how they were affected as victims of the Troubles.

On Thursday, March 23 at 7.30pm, a further fundraiser is being planned in the form of a Fashion Show in the Banville House Hotel, Banbridge.

All proceeds from both events are in aid of the memorial wall.

To make a donation to the County Armagh Memorial Appeal, you can visit www.armaghmemorial.org or via Facebook - www.facebook.com/armaghmemorial and follow the links.

Donations can also be made by texting WALL10 followed by amount to 70070 (ie text WALL10 10 to donate 10 or WALL10 5 to donate 5). Anyone wishing to donate over 10, should send more than one text for the amount they wish to donate.

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