AOH to march to Co Tyrone Mass Rock

Republican Gerry McGeough has been re-elected as president of the AOH in Co Tyrone. Here he is pictured with prominent US AOH members Judge Jim McKay III and Dan O'Connell.
Connla Young

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is to mark the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions with a parade to Mass rock in Co Tyrone.

Organisers say hundreds of members of the conservative Catholic organisation and up to 12 bands are expected to take part in the ‘Hibernain Day' parade to a Mass rock in Greencastle where a Canadian goldmine firm refused to allow a Catholic service to be held last year.

Dalradian Gold wants to mine for the precious metal in the area and plans to build a plant which will use cyanide to extract the gold from ore mined locally.

Some local people are also opposed to the plans on environmental and health grounds and also fear that if authorities give permission for the plant the ancient Mass rock may be submerged in a pond.

The Molly Maguire AOH division was formed in the area last year by some of those concerned by plans to develop the mine.

There was controversy last year when Dalradian refused to allow the sacramental stone, which sits on its land at Crockanboy Hill, to be used for Mass.

Local priest Fr John Forbes had wanted to say Mass at the historical stone as part of the Catholic Church's Year of Mercy.

In a statement Dalradian later appeared to dispute the beliefs of the priest and some local residents.

The Mass rock is believed to date back to the penal laws when Catholics were forced to practice their faith in secret.

Mass rocks hold a special place in Catholic communities because of the religious persecution associated with them.

The AOH evolved out of the Defenders and Ribbonmen Catholic defence groups in the 18th and 19th centuries and has members across Ireland and as far away as America where it has a large membership.

Details of the march emerged as prominent Co Tyrone republican Gerry McGeough was re-elected to lead the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the county.

The former IRA prisoner was selected at the group's AGM in Kinturk, near Ardboe, at the weekend.

Meanwhile, in an unprecedented move, the AOH is set to lay a wreath at a republican garden of remembrance in Carrickmore at Easter.

The tribute will be in memory of Edward Walsh who was a member of the Hibernian Rifles killed in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising.

It is considered rare for members of the AOH to take part in republican commemorative events.

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