The 'New' Republican Plot

In 1972 with the conflict at its height it became apparent that a new burial ground would be required to compensate for the death rate of IRA members. Close to the Tom Williams Plot and its extension a new piece of ground was purchased by the National Graves Association which contained 46 graves, each to accommodate four burials. 1972 would prove the worst year of the conflict with 496 deaths and 4,876 injured. The Provisional's lost 61 members, and funerals into the new burial plot were quick on coming. It should be pointed out that not all IRA fatalities are in the plot, many are buried in family burial grounds throughout the cemetery.

Perhaps the most famous from a tourist perspective of those buried in the new plot are three of the ten hunger strikers; Bobby Sands, Joe McDonnell and Kieran Doherty.

Bobby Sands was the first of the ten to die on May 5th, 1981 after 65 days, during which time in April he was elected MP for Fermanagh/South Tyrone receiving 30,000 votes. His death at the age of 27 and of those who followed him sparked the worst street fighting the North had seen since 1972. His funeral was not only the biggest to Milltown but was one of the biggest funerals ever seen in Ireland. A funeral that was covered by the worlds media.

Joe McDonnell followed Bobby Sands as the next Belfast IRA hunger striker to die. (Francis Hughes from South Derry, Raymond McCreesh from South Armagh and INLA member Patsy O’Hara from Derry had already died in line.) Aged 29, he embarked on hunger strike on Sunday, May 9th 1981, and died at 5.11am on July 8th 1981. It was perhaps predictable, as well as fitting that Joe McDonnell followed Bobby Sands on the hunger strike struggle. They were from the same mould of politically determined activists, good friends, and had been captured together. He left a wife and two children.

Kieran Doherty was 26 when he died on August 2nd 1981, after 73 days on hunger strike. A month before his death he was elected to the Dail after winning the Cavan/Monaghan constituency with 9,121 first preference votes. As with Bobby Sands and Joe McDonnell, he had been a former internee in Long Kesh, being arrested at the age of 17 in February 1973, joining his two older brothers who were both interned between 1972 and 1974. He was released in November 1975, but like many others reported back to the IRA. He was rearrested in August 1976, and after 15 months on remand in Crumlin Road Jail was sent to the H-Blocks having been sentenced to 18 years.

His name has been added to the War of Independence Memorial in Cavan town.

Michael Stone at Milltown CemeteryIt was this plot that Loyalist fanatic Michael Stone attacked on the 16th of March 1988. During the funerals of three IRA members, Danny McCann, Sean Savage and Mairead Farrell who were shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar, Stone, who was among the mourners, began to throw hand grenades and shot indiscriminately into the crowds. Stone then made his way out of the cemetery towards the M1 Motorway. What Stone did not plan for was to have been chased by the mourners. He continued to throw grenades and shoot but the mourners persevered until he ran out of ammunition. He was then captured and badly beaten before being rescued by the RUC. Stone left three people dead and injured over fifty others. Those killed were 20 year old Thomas McErlean, 26 year old John Murray and 30 year old IRA member Caoimhin MacBradaigh. A permanent memorial has now been erected on this plot in memory of the three. Both the UVF and UDA denied any involvement in the attack claiming that Stone was a maverick acting on his own. When he was sentenced to a number of life terms he was placed in the UDA H. Blocks. Now released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement Stone has been pictured at a number of UDA organised events. The New Republican Plot