ONE of Tyrone’s most prominent political figures of over half a century ago has died at the age of 88.
Tom Mitchell, who lived in Dublin, first became a public figure when he took part in a famous IRA raid on Omagh Army Camp in October 1954.
On that occasion, Mr Mitchell was part of a group which scaled a perimeter wall of the building on the riverside close to what is now the Showgrounds Retail Park. There followed an armed engagement with soldiers inside, before the gang escaped, sparking a man-hunt involving over 6000 military and policing scouring the entire six-county area.
Mr Mitchell and the other defendants were charged the following week at Omagh Magistrates Court with attempted murder. He was jailed for 10 years for treason felony.
It was while in prison that he was elected as Mid-Ulster Sinn Fein MP in 1955. He was subsequently re-elected and remained a very prominent figure on the local political scene during the 1960s and into the 1970s.
He was a guest speaker at the opening in 1970 of the Garden of Remembrance
A bricklayer by trade, he was in later years a regular visitor to events and functions in the county.
He presided at the opening of the Fintona GAA grounds in 1965, and was also a guest speaker at the opening of the Garden of Remembrance in Carrickmore in 1970.
In 2005, Mr Mitchell spoke about his memories of the raid on Omagh Barracks at an event marking the Centenary Year of Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein’s northern leader, Michelle O’Neill, extended her condolences to the family and friends of the veteran republican, saying she was ‘saddened’ to hear of his death.
“In 1955, he was the first Sinn Fein MP to be elected in the north since 1918,” she said.
“The British Government tried to strip him and the republican voters of Mid-Ulster of his seat and forced a by-election, which he also won with an increased majority.
“He took part in the first civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon and retained a close bond with Mid-Ulster and its people.”