This weekend marks one the biggest and most important set of republican commemorations witnessed in Derry for years.
On Saturday at 2.00pm there will be a commemoration at the republican plot in the City Cemetery to mark the 30th Anniversary of William Fleming and Danny Doherty who were ambushed by the SAS in the grounds of Gransha on December 6, 1984.
On Sunday at 1.00pm the 40th anniversary of Ethel Lynch will be remembered at the Creggan monument. Ethel Lynch was a former member of the Cumann na mBan but died while on active service with the IRA on December 7, 1974. Ethel Lynch was the only woman member of the IRA in Derry to lose her life during the Troubles.
Tar Abhaile, in co-operation with Cumann na mBan Commemorative Committee, are hosting Cumann na mBan – Throughout the Years, in the Bishop’s Field Sports Hall in Creggan, from 1.30pm – 4.30pm. It will be chaired by local MLA, Maeve McLaughlin.
The event will include a screening of a DVD of recollections of Ethel Lynch and John McDaid and a photographic exhibition of the local face of women involved in the struggle. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.
The weekend will conclude on Sunday evening at the Bogside and Brandywell Republican Monument near the Lecky Road at 7.00pm with a commemoration to remember the 40th anniversary of John McDaid who died when a bomb he was carrying on Bridge Street exploded accidentally.
William Fleming was 19 years-old and from Gobnascale when he and 23 year-old Daniel Doherty from Creggan, were shot dead by the SAS in the grounds of Gransha Hospital on December 6, 1984.
Daniel Doherty was married and had an infant son at the time of his death.
It is thought that both William and Daniel were travelling on motorcycle when they were shot dead.
William’s and Daniel’s bodies were both covered with white sheets and left on the grass verge entrance to the hospital.
A local priest, Rev. Neil Farren arrived at the scene a few hours after the shooting and anointed both bodies.
Speaking at the time of the deaths of the two IRA volunteers, then DUP Assemblyman, Gregory Campbell, called the undercover operations of the SAS to be stepped up.
“The whole community will unite in saying to the British government that the only way in which terrorists will be defeated and eliminated is when this type of undercover activity is not only continued but stepped up,” he said.
Then Mayor of Derry, SDLP councillor, John Tierney, criticised the British forces for what many regarded as a ‘shoot to kill’ policy.
“Is there no way they [British forces] could have apprehended or incapacitated people suspected or known to be about to commit a crime other than by shooting them dead? I do not believe shoot-to-kill methods, whether from paramilitaries or the security forces, is the way to secure or administer justice.”
Thousands of people attended the funerals of both William and Daniel and four masked IRA men in paramilitary uniforms fired a volley of shots over their coffins.
Both men were buried in the republican plot in the City Cemetery.
At the time, the funerals were described as the largest seen in Derry since the burial of Hunger Strikers Patsy O’Hara and Michael Devine in 1981.
The funerals past off peacefully except for a minor incident between members of the RUC and mourners as Mr. Fleming’s coffin left his Waterside home.
Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams and then Assemblyman, Martin McGuinness both attended the funerals.
Both coffins were draped in Irish tricolours and the streets leading to the City Cemetery were blocked with hijacked vehicles as masked IRA men carried the coffins to the graveside led by a lone piper.
Speaking at the funerals of both men, Martin McGuinness criticised the British for taking ‘delight’ in the deaths of the two men.
“British terror is based on the assumption that Irish Republicans will lie down, be cowed and defeated. The Republican plot here today, the massive attendance, the large turnout of young people in support of the IRA proves the Irish people will never surrender to British terrorism.”
Ethel Lynch was 22 years-old when she was badly injured when a bomb accidentally exploded in a flat she was in in Crawford Square. Ethel, who was from Westway, died in Altnagelvin Hospital five days after the explosion.
John McDaid was from Aberfoyle Crescent was 16 years-old when he died.
Ethel Lynch’s funeral took place in St. Mary’s Church, Creggan.
Ethel’s Requiem Mass was celebrated by Rev. M. McIver C.C. and members of the Cumann na mBan marched behind her coffin which was draped in an Irish tricolour.
Several hundred people attended the funeral and many more lined the streets leading to the City Cemetery.
Rev. G. McLaughlin, Adm. and Rev. J. McCrory, C.C. officiated at the graveside.
The British army had set-up extra check-points leading in and out of the Creggan estate and motorists checked on exiting and entering the estate.
Rev. D. Boland C.C. celebrated Requiem Mass for John McDaid in St. Patrick’s Church, Pennyburn and Rev. A. Mulvey Adm. officiated at the graveside in the City Cemetery.
John McDaid was killed instantly when a bomb he was carrying exploded accidentally shortly after 8 o’clock on Saturday December 7.
A 17 year-old youth was also injured as a result of the incident.
John McDaid was the 142nd person to die violently in Derry since the Troubles began in 1969.
In sympathy notices from many Sinn Fein Cumainn and Cumann na mBan which appeared in the Journal in 1974 the deceased were referred to as Lieutenant Ethel Lynch and Volunteer John McDaid.