A VETERAN Sinn Féin politician says the local community “demands the truth” about events leading up to the SAS ambush on a group of IRA volunteers at St Patrick’s Church in Clonoe two decades ago.
As the 20th anniversary of the attack - on February 16, 1992 - approaches, Mid-Ulster MLA, Francie Molloy, has recalled how he received a phone call alerting him to a shoot out and reports that the chapel was on fire.
Describing the SAS killings of Peter Clancy, Barry O’Donnell, Sean O’Farrell and Patrick Vincent as “terrible and tragic” for their families, Mr Molloy called for answers to questions surrounding the attack.
Molloy’s comments come as Coalisland Clonoe Martyrs Sinn Féin Cumann announced plans to hold a candlelight vigil at 9pm on Thursday, February 16 at Clonoe Chapel to remember the men.
The Mid-Ulster MLA recalled: “I remember getting the phone call a shoot out, the chapel on fire, men in boiler suits everywhere and no-one accountable. No-one knew what was happening.
“When I arrived at Clonoe the local people had taken a stand to ensure that no further damage could be done to the bodies of their loved ones. The air was tense and everyone was consumed (with) anguish on their faces but a determination that they were standing their ground.
“This was cold blooded murder, whatever had happened earlier the volunteers were packing up their weapons and were no threat to anyone.
“The stakeout had been planned by the SAS, RUC and they were there to murder as many as they could. This was premeditated murder yet there has never been a proper investigation and no-one has been held to account.
“The news shocked the entire community in the Coalisland and Clonoe area that these young men could be cut down in such a callous manner. Unionists gloated without realizing that this type of action showed the bankruptcy of the northern state which was brought into being by armed force and could only be maintained by force, murder and imprisonment.
“The murders at Clonoe also put an added responsibility on all of us to provide an alternative, to stop the ongoing slaughter of your volunteers in Tyrone and in this area of East Tyrone in particular.
“I knew these young men. They watched 10 men die on hungerstrike and saw the savagery of British occupation at first hand. Like the hungerstrikers they had no fear of the enemy and were prepared to take them on against the odds.
“Twenty years on from that terrible night this community demands the truth of what happened, who provided the information, who at the highest level of the NIO/British establishment ordered the murders and why after twenty years have their loved ones still got no answers?”