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Crossmaglen is a village in south County Armagh which is synonymous with The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It had a population of 1,459 people and is the largest village in South Armagh. The village centre is the site of a large police base and formerly a British Army base.
The town’s name means ‘Lennon’s Cross’; a reference to the two roads which intersect at the town square, linking Dundalk with Keady and Carrickmacross with Newry. Lennon is believed to be Owen Lennon, a local resident in the 18th century, who was famed as the owner of a shebeen, an illegal ale house.
The square’s name commemorates Cardinal Tomas O Fiaich, a local man who became Catholic Primate of All Ireland and who died in 1990. Crossmaglen has been described by Belfast journalist Malachi O Doherty as “a southern town that had the border laid down on the wrong side of it
South Armagh was controlled by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles and despite having a huge presence in the town, including a base that encroached on the local GAA Club, Crossmaglen Rangers, the British Army could never contain the violence that emanated from South Armagh. They were despised inthis Catholic town being unwanted by most of the local population. Labour MP Clare Short said in 1983, “It is ridiculous that British troops are here in Crossmaglen. The claim is that they’re in Ireland keeping the peace between the two communities. But there is only one community in South Armagh, so what the heck are they doing here?”
During the Troubles, at least 58 police officers and 124 soldiers were killed by the IRA in South Armagh, many in Crossmaglen itself.
Crossmaglen in recent years has become known for its Gaelic Football team, Crossmaglen Rangers, who won the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship in 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2007, the latter after a replay. They were defeated in the final in 2008 by Kilmacud Crokes from Dublin. The manager and several players of Rangers went on to win the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship with the Armagh GAA team in 2002 and got to the final in 2003 but lost 1-8 0-10 to neighbours Tyrone. One of Crossmaglen’s most notable players is O sin McConville, who is also Ulster’s top scoring player ever. Crossmaglen Rangers hold the national record of 13 County Titles in a row and they also hold the record of 6 Ulster club titles.
Crossmaglen is a homely town largely dependant on local farming and other small industry for its trade.