A strong voice for NI Veterans

Events held to remember IRA killing of Eva Martin, the first ‘Greenfinch’ female UDR soldier to die 50 years ago

2 May 2024

As the world continues to turn, history often becomes a distant memory, overshadowed by the hustle and bustle of the present. Yet, there are moments, individuals, whose stories demand to be remembered, whose sacrifices must be honoured for generations to come. One such individual is Private Eva Martin.

The evening of 1 May 2024, marked the eve of the solemn occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the murder of Private Eva Martin, a moment that resonated with deep significance and reflection. The memorial service, organised by the Ancre Somme Association Charity at Brownlow House, served as a poignant reminder of the life, service, and ultimate sacrifice made by Private Eva Martin.

Eva died following an IRA mortar attack at Clogher Deanery in Co Tyrone on 2 May 1974, and was the first Ulster Defence Regiment female soldier (Greenfinch) to die during Operation Banner. Three other Greenfinches would later be added to the roll of honour in making the ultimate sacrifice during service in Northern Ireland, these were, LCpl Jean Leggett, Private Margaret Hearst and Cpl Heather Kerrigan.

The family of Eva Martin, as the first female member of the security forces to be killed by the IRA during the Troubles have told how their lives were forever changed by her death. A statement from her sister Linda Nelson, on behalf of the family, said: 

“Fifty years is a significant period of time but in some ways the last 50 years have also been frozen in time.  On May 2 1974 our lives as a family would forever change and the events of that would have a significant impact on all our futures. Eva was a much-loved daughter, sister, and wife.”

Ms Nelson said her sister had a love of languages and had taken up employment as a teacher at Fivemiletown High School. She further commented: 

“Beyond her family, she was also deeply cherished by her colleagues within the UDR CGC, and there was a huge outpouring of grief at the point she was stolen away from us. “Everyone loved Eva.”

The Northern Ireland Veterans Commissioner who attended Wednesday evenings Anniversary and Memorial event commented:

 “Attending this anniversary and memorialisation epitomises the sacrifice made by all members of the Armed Forces, in which terrorism was not selective of its victims – whether they were women with families, children caught up in bomb blasts, or innocent men simply going about their work. I am incredibly grateful but saddened to Private Eva Martin, for the ultimate price and sacrifice that she paid in the line of her duties, and thankful for her service in making Northern Ireland a safer place to be”   – Mr Danny Kinahan, NI Veterans Commissioner

Victims’ organisation South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF) have helped to organise events to mark the Anniversary.  This has included a service of thanksgiving and an act of remembrance at her grave on Thursday evening 2 May 2024. SEFF director Kenny Donaldson said: 

“While teaching, Eva joined the part time UDR CGC as a Greenfinch. She was stationed in Clogher Deanery, and it was there that Eva was murdered during a mortar attack on the barracks. Eva was the first female member of the security forces to have her life stolen because of the terrorist campaign. Three others were to follow and many more male colleagues.”SEFF director Kenny Donaldson

In total 1,441 military personnel died as a result of operations during Op Banner from August 1969-Jul 2007. 

Operation Banner in Northern Ireland was and continues to be the longest continuous deployment of Armed Forces personnel in British military history, during which over 250,000 military personnel served.

Had it not been for the dedication, sacrifice and bravery of so many, in the protection of the whole society of Northern Ireland, would we have the safe, secure and peaceful Northern Ireland we enjoy today.

A strong voice for NI Veterans