Weekend service to mark 40th anniversary of Darkley church atrocity in south Armagh
On a Sunday evening in November 1983, republican gunmen approached a remote Protestant church near Keady and opened fire on worshippers as they sang a Christian hymn.
Three people were killed and seven injured as more than forty bullets were fired at the remote Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church, close to the border.
Those who died were Harold Browne, 59, David Wilson, 44 and Victor Cunningham, 39.
Responsibility for the shooting was claimed in a telephone call to a journalist. The caller said the attack was carried out by the ‘Catholic Reaction Force’ in retaliation for sectarian murders claimed in the name of the ‘Protestant Action Force’.
The two organisations in question were cover names used by the INLA and UVF respectively.
A notice on the church’s Facebook page says: “As we approach the 40th anniversary, the service will reflect on the lives and testimonies of those who were promoted to glory in 1983 and of the Great Hope that they each possessed in knowing Christ as their Saviour.
"Come and join with us – you will be warmly welcomed as we worship the Lord together.”
Newry & Armagh MLA William Irwin said the Darkley massacre stands as “one of the most horrific atrocities of the Troubles”.
He said: “The attack in Darkley was the indiscriminate sectarian murder of innocent people as they worshipped on a Sunday evening.
"Harold Brown, Victor Cunningham, David Wilson and every other member of the congregation that evening were targeted because of their faith and were easy targets in the small isolated wooden building.
“Even amongst the horrors of the Troubles, Darkley stands as one of the most horrific atrocities as gunmen stood outside the church, reloading their weapons to then spray the building with gunfire again.”
Mr Irwin added: “Despite Sinn Fein’s view, there was never any justification for such attacks and there was always an ‘alternative’ to such hatred.
“Even after 40 years it is difficult to comprehend the mindset of those who perpetrated this atrocity. It is also hard to find a more glaring contrast than between those who were inside the building that evening and the gunmen who attacked them indiscriminately”.