Twelve years after the idea was first mooted, a Memorial Wall dedicated to security forces personnel killed during the Troubles in Co Armagh, will finally be erected in the city later this month.
A fundraising target of £112,000 was set in order to construct the wall which will be unveiled at a Service of Dedication at St Mark’s Parish Church on Sunday, June 16.
County Armagh Phoenix Group Ltd. (CAPG) was formed in 2007 to provide suitable support services in a safe environment to former members of the Security Forces and their families who are victims of terrorism in County Armagh as a result of their service.
And one of the first major decisions made by the founding members of CAPG was to erect the Memorial Wall.
Co Armagh had the highest percentage of Security Force members killed in Northern Ireland during the terrorist campaign.
Almost 25% of Military personnel deaths (including the Ulster Defence Regiment and Royal Irish Regiment) related to ‘The Troubles’ occurred in Co. Armagh.
Almost one third (33%) of murders of RUC Officers were murdered over the same period, as were 16% of NI Prison Service murders in Co. Armagh.
David Hammerton BEM, Chairman of CAPG, speaking to Armagh I, said the Memorial is a “fitting tribute to those 345 men and women whose lives were brutally taken because they stood to defend all communities of this county”.
He added: “Having died standing shoulder to shoulder, they will now be remembered together on one Memorial.
“This has been a long but very worthwhile project. It took a while for our committee to identify a suitable site for the Memorial; draw up suitable architectural plans, acquire planning permission and then permission from the appropriate Church authorities before building could commence.
“In October 2015 we started to publicly fundraise, setting ourselves a five-year target to raise sufficient funds to complete this Memorial. Thanks to the amazing response, and everyone’s generosity, we have reached our target to construct this Memorial earlier than we projected”.
Mr Hammerton said the committee’s “heartfelt gratitude” is offered to everyone who has supported (sometimes repeatedly) their public fund-raising appeals and events.
“We are deeply gratified by how our fund-raising appeal has fired the imagination of everyone, and how generously they have donated,” he said.
“We could not have built this Memorial without you, and it will stand as much a tribute to your generosity as it is to our commitment, and is not only a tribute to the service and sacrifice of all who were murdered, but will help to educate future generations of the true cost of the peace they now enjoy”.
“We thank all of our benefactors for playing a part in making it happen.”
A local architect was commissioned to draw up plans, after a suitable site was offered in the grounds of St Mark’s Parish Church.
The Wall is comprised of two ‘wings’ each thirty feet long, and a central curved wall which will bear eight memorial tablets showing the names in chronological order.
All of the stone came from local quarries, and compliments the stonework used on the church building.
The Memorial will be unveiled and dedicated at a special Service at 3pm on Sunday,16 June in St. Mark’s Parish Church.
The Right Honourable, The Earl of Caledon KCVO JP, The Lord Lieutenant of County Armagh will unveil the Memorial.
The Right Reverend, The Lord Eames OM will offer the prayer of Dedication. All of the main churches will be represented at the church service.
Over 750 relatives have received invitations to attend, filling the church to capacity. Other family relatives will have to be seated in a nearby hall.
Mr Hammerton commented: “Having almost 800 relatives of these murder victims attending our Dedication Service gives an indication of the pain and hurt still felt today as a legacy of these murders.
“The Service will be relayed by live recording and sound into the overflow hall.
“Whilst we offer an open invitation in the overflow hall to everyone who wishes to attend, we ask for your understanding as to why we have given those family members, who are related to the victims being remembered, priority seating within the church.”
Light refreshments will be offered after the service in the church hall.
The committee continue to fundraise in order to cover some unexpected, hidden building costs and for the expenses incurred during the Dedication Service.
They also require a maintenance fund for the upkeep of this striking Memorial in years to come.