Grave problems in Tyrone

A row that has been bubbling away in Tyrone has surfaced in the press. This article on Francie Molloy appeared in the Tyrone Democrat:

“This year at the National Graves AGM in Galbally an attempt was made to hijack that organisation by dissident elements…

We now have a number of independent dissident organisations in association with National Grave Tyrone organising counter commemorations in some graveyeards. It is clear that these people just want to hijack commemorations”

Brian Cawley, Chairperson of Tyrone National Graves Association replied claiming SF attempted to take over the independent group and the ‘dissident’ tag is unwarranted:

“I am saddened by this personal attack on myself by Francie Molloy through the media and feel I have no choice but to respond. I have been involved in Tyrone National Graves since my release from Long Kesh in 1983. I have had the honour of chairing the association since the early 1990’s.I feel this attack has been timed in such a way as to blacken my name and the good name of Tyrone National Graves Association. I question the motivation of this attack and whose interest does it serve?

Tyrone National Graves Association has always been an independent organisation. Throughout the years, we have had a good working relationship with the Republican Movement. This represented the consensus among the families of fallen Volunteers and Republican activists. This consensus no longer exists. There is a wide variety of opinion among the families. I have always tried as chair to ensure that Tyrone National Graves Association reflects the feelings of all the families of the fallen Volunteers. Mr Molloy has said Sinn Féin have been excluded. This is not true. Sinn Féin members and supporters continue to play a valued role on our committee. A former member of Tyrone National Graves was recently voted off the committee for acting against the interests of the organisation by organising collections in direct opposition to the annual Tyrone National Graves Easter collection.

Over the last few years a number of families of fallen Volunteers, especially in the East Tyrone area, have approached the Tyrone National Graves Association on a number of issues including asking that their family graves are not used as party political platforms by any organisation and that PSNI policing board members do not lay wreaths on their loved ones graves. Other families had no problems with these issues. Last Easter, in the interests of republican unity, we attempted to facilitate those families which raised concerns by asking Sinn Féin to accommodate their requests. This was refused point blankly. We were told by local leadership that they and they alone would decide how commemorations were organised. On hearing this a number of families in Dungannon, Galbally and Coalisland decided to hold their own independent family commemorations where no political speeches were made. These families requested our assistance. Sinn Féin organised alternative commemorations in Edendork and Galbally.

At our AGM Sinn Féin mobilised all available members, including people from Monaghan, Armagh and Dundalk, to come and remove, by force of numbers, the existing Tyrone National Graves committee. Mr Molloy has tried to label people who attended our AGM as dissidents. The vast majority of people who spoke in favour of retaining the existing committee were families of the fallen Volunteers. Is Mr Molloy calling these families dissidents?

As chairperson of Tyrone National Graves Association I would ask that Mr Molloy should cease his attacks on our organisation and we will continue our work in maintaining the graves, monuments and memories of Tyrone’s Patriot Dead.