Belfast Telegraph

Survivors remember victims of IRA atrocity at Orange hall

By David Young

Survivors of the Tullyvallen Orange Hall massacre in 1974 gathered at an intensely emotional memorial service to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the day the IRA attacked a lodge meeting in the isolated south Armagh hall.

Four Orangemen were murdered during the attack, with a fifth man dying later as a result of the injuries he sustained.

Survivors and relatives of the victims were joined by senior Orangemen last night to remember the victims of the worst terrorist attack inflicted on the Orange Order during the Troubles.

The Orangemen killed in the republican terror attack, all members of Tullyvallen Guiding Star Temperance LOL 630, were father and son, James (73) and Ronnie McKee (40), lodge secretary Nevin McConnell (48), chaplain John Johnston (80) and William Herron (68). Mr McKee Snr was worshipful master of the lodge. Six others were injured.

The fatal shootings occurred during a normal monthly lodge meeting.

The hall door burst open and two masked men appeared armed with machine guns.

They sprayed the hall with bullets while another gunman outside fired through a window.

An off-duty member of the security forces, who was attending the meeting, fired his personal-issue weapon and believed he hit one of the gunmen before they fled. Once the shooting was over, survivors raised the alarm. Explosives were also discovered outside the hall.

Berry Reaney, who was injured in the attack, still bears the physical and emotional scars of the atrocity.

He sustained a broken arm after being struck by a bullet.

"The memories never really go away - there is always something which keeps bringing it back to the forefront," he said.

"Every time you go to the hall you go through it. There are times you are working and something shoots into your mind about it and you go over bits and pieces in your head. There are times, out of the blue, something can trigger it off day or night."

Danny Kennedy MLA who attended last night's service, said the commemoration would bring back many painful memories for the community. "But it is important that the people of Tullyvallen are not forgotten," he said.

"Those who sought so cruelly to tear this community apart have not succeeded. The community has rallied and responded - and there is still hope in Tullyvallen."

The service also recalled the lives of two other lodge members, William Meaklim (28) and Joseph McCullough (56), murdered by the IRA in 1975 and 1976 respectively.

  • The names of two of the victims of the massacre were transposed in a report in Monday's editions. They should have read "father and son James (73) and Ronnie (40) McKee, from Newtownhamilton". We apologise for the error, which has been corrected online.

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