Rowntree family oppose plans for new memorial

January 27, 2014

By Christine Keighery

The sister of republican volunteer Colman Rowntree has spoken on behalf of her family against plans to erect a new memorial to her brother at the site where he was killed by British soldiers 40 years ago.

Colman Rowntree was shot dead by the British army alongside fellow Official IRA colleague Martin McAlinden  at a derelict farmhouse in Ballyholland in 1974. They were preparing a landmine attack at the time.  The soldiers maintained they believed the pair were about to shoot them.

In a letter to this newspaper, Maria Rowntree took the opportunity to voice her family’s objection to plans by a small republican element in Newry to erect a further memorial at the site of the killings. This unrecognised group has alleged links to a former Belfast-based republican group which was ‘stood down’ several years ago amid claims of involvement in criminal activity.

Maria Rowntree acknowledged the family’s satisfaction with the memorial currently in place in St Mary’s cemetery in Newry and with the preparations being undertaken by the Official Republican Association for the 40th anniversary of her brother’s execution.

She described plans for an upcoming rededication ceremony of the existing St Mary’s memorial on 11th May as a “fitting commemoration” of her brother’s sacrifice.

The family are actively involved in on-going fundraising for the rededication ceremony, with a fundraising night set to take place in the Newry Forester’s Club on Friday 21st February at 8pm.

Pat McGuigan, a friend of the Rowntree family and leading figure in the Official Republican Association confirmed the family’s preference to commemorate Colman’s murder at the existing memorial and revealed that no members of the Rowntree family had been contacted by the unofficial republican group to inform them of their intent to erect a plaque in Ballyholland.

“The Official Republican Association has permission from the parades commission to march at the existing site on 11th May and have arranged for other republican groups, bands and Sinn Fein representatives to attend the 40 year anniversary rededication ceremony.

“This and the annual remembrance ceremony is something we have been involved with the full support of the Rowntree family for many years now and we invite all interested parties to show their support for the family and the St. Mary’s memorial by coming along to our fundraising evening in Newry Forester’s Club on 21st February,” he said.