Money for Troubles memorial wall raised three years early
A memorial wall to honour security forces personnel killed during the Troubles in Co Armagh is to be built almost three years ahead of schedule after an overwhelming public response.
It was expected it would take five years to raise the money for the scheme, but the target was hit after just 18 months.
The Co Armagh Phoenix Group, which came up with the idea, said planning permission had been granted and tenders were being sought, with construction work scheduled to begin later this year.
While £80,000 was needed to pay for the wall, the donations poured in thanks to organisers staging a huge range of fundraising events.
The memorial, which is due to be built in the grounds of St Mark's Church in the city, will be a tribute to 320 men and women from Co Armagh killed while serving in the RUC, UDR and Prison Service.
The Phoenix Group is a charity formed in 2007 to support former members of the security services and their families who were victims of terrorism in Co Armagh.
The group has more than 800 members drawn from Co Armagh RUC GC, Police Welfare Associations from Armagh, Lurgan and Newry and Mourne, the 2 UDR Association, Armagh Association Voluntary Welfare Group, Retired Prison Service Officers Association and Richhill Royal British Legion.
Ronnie Quigg from Warringstown, who served in the RUC for 35 years and is chair of the memorial fundraising group, said: "The response has been amazing with lots of fundraisers from 'buy a brick' to presentations in Royal British Legion premises, concerts, talks, displays, sponsored walks and lots more.
"Such has been the response that, after only 18 months, the process to construct and raise the wall has officially started.
"It is intended to break ground at St Mark's Church later this year. At present, we anticipate that the County Armagh Memorial Wall will be completed and ready for unveiling and dedication next summer.
"At present, the committee overseeing the project is engaged in checking, double-checking and rechecking records to ensure that all names, spellings and dates of death of those to be remembered are correct.
"This will ensure that the most time-consuming part of the construction - the engraving of details of over 320 members of the security forces on memorial tablets - can begin."
Fundraising will continue to ensure money is in place to raise the wall and maintain it.
"Those of us involved in overseeing the project have been deeply gratified by how it has fired the imagination of all we have been in contact with, and we are indebted and humbled by their generosity," Mr Quigg said.
Armagh had a higher percentage rate per population killed than anywhere else in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
The wall will contain the names of all security forces personnel who were murdered in Co Armagh or who were born there and murdered elsewhere from the formation of Northern Ireland in 1922 until the end of Operation Banner in 2007.
Mr Quigg said: "When it is finished we hope it will be a place to reflect and remember the supreme sacrifice made by those persons whose names will be engraved upon it.
"We hope it will leave a lasting memorial fitting for families, relatives, ex-colleagues and friends of those brave members of the security forces murdered in the execution of their duty."
Support the memorial by visiting www.armaghmemorial.org.