On October 9th 1990, 30 years ago tonight, Republican Volunteers Dessie Grew and Martin McCaughey — East Tyrone Brigade, Óglaigh na hÉireann — were killed by undercover British soldiers in an ambush near Loughgall. Among the finest soldiers that Ireland has known, their courage and their sacrifice will always be remembered by those who maintain the Republican struggle for a free and united Ireland.
Five years ago I sat with their families in Galbally Hall, in tribute to these heroes and Patriots (something simply not possible with the times that are in it the year). But when you recall the stories — those simple stories of what brothers and cousins, friends or what have you, do together when growing up — it’s then that you realise what was done to our community and how big a loss such men were to their friends, their families and to their comrades.
They could have went on to achieve great things — the sky was the limit — but alas they were taken too soon, shot in the back in cold blood by Crown Forces concealed in ambush.
These men were true leaders and I can’t help but wonder were they removed for political reasons, rather than anything to do with a military strategy per se. Dessie Grew was among the most intelligent men in the Republican Movement. That he wasn’t singled out for a ‘safe’ leadership role is testament to the fact that he was no good to those preparing to sell our people down the river. Like McKearney and Lynagh and the Bold McElwain, he had to go. They murdered Big Dessie because they feared him.
The same was true of Martin McCaughey. A man of his leadership capabilities — a fearless Volunteer of integrity and principle — was better served in the ground for the Brits and those who they were working with to foist a surrender on the Irish people. They deserved better. They deserved to live out their lives like the rest of us, to fulfil their capabilities as sons of their communities and as Irishmen.
We are very much proud of these men — of what they stood for, what they fought for and of what they gave their young lives for. While Ireland holds their graves, we will not abandon the Republic for which they fought and died. Martin McCaughey and Dessie Grew live on in the hearts of the people — from the streets of Armagh to the hillsides of Tyrone and all across this land.
My heart goes out to their families tonight, who no doubt endure such terrible pain, still now though 30 years on. I suppose they have so many great memories to reflect on — they packed so much into their young lives. And the thing about them is, while they might have died young, they lived. They truly lived.
30 years on from that fateful night, the people of Tyrone and Armagh — where these two young men called home — remember still their daring exploits and their contribution to our struggle for freedom. Though they are gone, they live on, forever, in the hearts and homes of those they left behind, their memory and legacy challenging us every day to secure the Republic for which they fought and died.
The generations to come shall call them blessed and we will speak the names of McCaughey and Grew with pride — now and for all time. And a new generation of our young folk will rise to finish the task, of that be sure. While Britain continues to hold our country, there can be no other way.