The lack of coverage of the Ballymurphy inquest is a scandal | Northern Ireland | The Guardian




“It’s very unnerving to know that, around the same time our loved ones were murdered they were letting loyalist gunmen go”

A BRITISH Army unit responsible for the murder of five unarmed Catholic civilians, including a 13-year-old schoolgirl, handed a loyalist gunman over to the UDA.

Children murdered by the British army and the RUC

Ministry of Defence (MoD) documents reveal how a day after the Springhill Massacre in 1972, British soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Kings Regiment arrested a 17-year-old found walking the streets of West Belfast with a pistol and 11 rounds of ammunition. But instead of criminally charging the young gunman, he was released into the hands of a loyalist terror boss who told soldiers the UDA “will sort him out”. The shocking revelation can be made after secret British military logs were unearthed by a Belfast-based legacy research group. Paper Trail called the incident an example of “casual collusion” between members of the British security forces and loyalist Paramilitaries during the Troubles.

Five people, including a 13-year-old schoolgirl and a Catholic priest, were murdered when soldiers opened fire on the Springhill estate on July 9th, 1972. Margaret Gargan (13), David McClafferty (15), John Dougal (16), Patrick Butler (39) and Catholic priest Father Noel Fitzpatrick (40) were all shot dead in a hail of gunfire that lasted 90 minutes. Eyewitness reports from the time say Patrick Butler and Fr Fitzpatrick had been attempting to reach Margaret, the Ballymurphy Massacre’s youngest victim, who was shot in the head as she chatted to friends. The killings took place 11 months after the Ballymurphy Massacre and just six months after Bloody Sunday. Copies of the military logs, seen by the Sunday World, showed that at 11.08pm on July 10th, 1972, just over 24 hours on from the Springhill murders, the Kings Regiment reported it had arrested a gunman in the Springmartin Road area. 

More children who were murdered by the so-called police keeping forces in the occupied six Counties of the North of Ireland


A follow-up note at 11.47pm stated that the youth, whose name was redacted in the publicly available documents, was carrying a 9mm pistol and 11 rounds of ammunition in a holster. “He does not have a fire arms certificate”, the log added. “Arrested by patrol and not RUC. “If detained by Security Forces, there will be a major incident”. The 17-year-old, described as “very frightened”, was photographed and “documented”. The logs stated he was due to be handed over to the RUC”. However, another log a few minutes later by the CO (Commanding Officer) stated the gunman “will now be released by British Military on advice of the RUC”

At 2.32am the 39 Brigade reported to British Army HQ: “Ref Protestant Gunman, 17 year old boy Stupid Boy – UDA Company Commander request (ed) to deal with it – Did not have a firearms certificate. Being released to the UDA to the UDA on the advice of the RUC”. British military intelligence documents from May 1972 record that the UDA ‘A’ Company Commander over Highfield/Springmartin as Andy Tyrie – who went on to become the Supreme Commander of the loyalist terror group. It is not known who the teenage gunman is and whether he went on to carry out violence or killings on behalf of the UDA.

Ciaran MacAirt, Project Manager with Paper Trail, who compiled the research, said: “These two incidents involved the same British Army regiment – just over 24 hours apart and just a couple of hundred yards away from each other, “In one incident, 1 Kings committed mass murder, killing unarmed teenagers, a family man and the local priest; in the other, 1 Kings colluded with the RUC and UDA and released a loyalist gunman it had caught in the act. “The difference, of course, was that Springhill was an Irish Catholic estate and Springmartin was a British Protestant estate.”


He added: “The Springhill and Westrock families have been fighting for truth and justice for their loved ones for over 47 years. “But what happened to the loyalist gunman who was released by the British Army and RUC? Was he involved in loyalist violence after his release? Did he hurt other people? And did the British Army and police call in a favour after that night and use him as an agent  – he certainly owed them?” Speaking to the Sunday World, Harry Gargan (60), whose 13-year-old sister was shot dead by the same British troops, said: “It’s very unnerving to know that, around the same time our loved ones were murdered they were letting loyalist gunmen go. In fact, it is horrific.” The grandfather from West Belfast, who was 12 when his sister was murdered in the street, said it was yet again more proof that a new inquest is needed into the atrocity. In 2014, Attorney General John Larkin directed that new inquests into the deaths should be opened. However, to date that has not happened. Harry said: “My family’s aim is to get this inquest and that was always our aim. Just what Ballymurphy got, just what Bloody Sunday got.


“You would think it wouldn’t be too much to ask. It’s always been fight, fight, fight. We’ve tried to get our campaign off the ground like Ballymurphy but we get so far and it falls away.” He added : “Margaret’s killing was cold-blooded. I don’t  believe it was an ordinary soldier that killed her. She was shot dead with one bullet wound to the temple from a distance  – it was a target kill. “The thing that my mother and father could not get over was, during the inquest at the time, someone from the MoD (Ministry of Defence) stood up and read out a statement saying a solider identified a 20-year-old gunman. They were trying to say they thought she was a 20-year-old gunman and it was a mistake. “But no one challenged them on this. They were allowed to stand up and say whatever they wanted and walked out. “My mother and father came back to our house that day destroyed.” 

Describing the impact of the loss of his older sister had on his family, Harry said: “I could never accept it for a long time. “I don’t  remember the funeral or anything. Sometimes you wonder how you’ve come through all of it – it’s hard. My mother didn’t exist for a long time after Margaret died. She couldn’t even get out of bed. “Myself and Bernadette, Margaret’s twin sister, would go to the shop for her. “When I was a bit older and out drinking, when I was coming home and saw the living room light on I wouldn’t go in to the house. “I would have went walking for two hours around the place because I couldn’t I couldn’t bear to see my mother sitting there crying. She just couldn’t get over it. She died at 57-years-old of a heart attack. “Eventually she came around a good bit, but she never got over it.” 

With many thanks to: The Sunday World and Patricia Devlin for the EXCLUSIVE original story 

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Truth of the Para’s Ballymurphy massacre is finally being told |

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BSMC stands with the Ballymurphy families

The Bloody Sunday March Committee (BSMC) has urged those who can to travel from Derry to Belfast on Thursday to show solidarity with the families of the vicims of the Ballymurphy massacre.

Several BSMC members attended the inquest into the British Parachute Regiment, 1st Battallion, led slaughter of 10 innocent victims in West Belfast over three days in August 1971.

An 11th man later died from a heart attack as a result of being attacked by soldiers conducting the atrocities.

BSMC member Betty Doherty said: “Given our own experiences of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry here in Derry and given the stress and strain we know the Ballymurphy relatives are currently under we felt it was important for us to show our support by travelling to Belfast and standing shoulder to shoulder with them.”

The inquest has been sitting for over 60 days and in that time, it has heard evidence from over 100 people, including civilian witnesses, former senior members of the Parachute Regiment and also from rank and file soldiers of that regiment who participated in the para operation in Ballymurphy.

Ms. Doherty said: “Just like the relatives of all those murdered by the Paras here in Derry the Ballymurphy families have had to struggle long and hard to get to this point in their long campaign and we feel this small act of solidarity lets them know that people in Derry stand with them.”

The BSMC has asked people to travel to the Laganside Courts in Belfast this Thursday to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ballymurphy families who lost their loved ones at the hands of the same regiment that gunned down 13 people in Derry five months later.

Ms. Doherty said: “Now as the inquest moves towards its conclusion and expectations and pressure are inevitably heightened on the families we would ask people in Derry to travel to Belfast with us next Thursday, May 30, and show their support for them in their calls for truth and justice.”

With many thanks to the: Derry Journal for the original story

Retired general denies British Army tried to cover up Ballymurphy shootings

Relatives of those who were murdered on Bloody Sunday in Derry and in Ballymurphy embraced each other as they entered Belfast Lagan side Courts today

A former head of the British Army has rejected a suggestion that it tried to cover up the shooting of civilians in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971.

Giving evidence at the inquest into the deaths, retired General Mike Jackson described the claim as preposterous.

He was responding to questions from Michael Mansfield QC, representing the family of Joseph Corr, who died after being shot on 11 August 1971.

The barrister began his questioning by stating that Mr Corr “was not a gunman, wasn’t armed, wasn’t a member of the IRA and wasn’t associated with the IRA.”

Mr Mansfield said there was no evidence that any soldiers who fired their weapons on the day that Mr Corr was shot had been interviewed by the Royal Military Police at the time.

He said this was a breach of the British Army’s policies and asked General Jackson if that was because there was a desire to cover up what happened.

“That is a preposterous allegation to make,” said the retired general, who was a captain with the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy at the time of the shootings. “It simply doesn’t add up.”

He told the inquest he did not know whether any soldiers had been interviewed at the time, and that it was possible there may have been a break in the British Army’s normal procedures because of the pressure it was under at the time.

“What I do know is we don’t do conspiracies,” he said.

The comment was greeted by muted laughter from the packed public gallery, while relatives of those killed shook their heads.

Earlier, General Jackson accepted it was likely that he was a Parachute Regiment captain quoted in a newspaper report on 11 August 1971 stating that two men shot dead by soldiers early that morning had been IRA gunmen.

He told the court part of his duties included briefing the media about the regiment’s activities.

Questioned by Sean Doran QC, representing the coroner, he accepted that no weapons had been found on the two men shot dead that day.

In his statement to the inquest, which was read to the court, Mr Jackson said he had “absolutely no doubt” the IRA had engaged members of the regiment in a fierce gun battle that morning.

The statement said 600 soldiers had come under a “hail of gunfire” when they moved in to remove barricades in the area. It also said two gunmen had been shot dead and their bodies recovered.

Mr Jackson confirmed that he had witnessed the men being shot or seen their bodies. “In retrospect of course I should have said alleged gunmen,” he added.

Mr Doran then asked the retired general if he wished to say anything to relatives of those who were killed, 15 of whom were sitting directly across from him in Court 12 at Belfast Laganside Courts.

“Let me say to the families who so long ago lost their loved ones, for me it is a tragedy,” he said.

“It’s a tragedy which is hugely that is hugely regrettable, but I would say anybody who loses their loved one as a result of violent conflict is also a tragedy. I too have lost friends so be it.

“My sympathies to you and I’m sorry that it is only now after so long that you feel you can come to terms.”

With many thanks to: RTÉ News and Vincent Kearney (Northern Correspondent) for the original story


Tory posturing over soldier’s crimes could worsen violence in the North of Ireland

As more shocking details emerge from the Ballymurphy inquiry, memories are being stirredand Tory MPs are being deeply irresponsible.

Families of those murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre outside the Inquiry, 8th May 2019| Liam MC Burney/PA Images

This week the Ballymurphy Inquiry, currently underway in Belfast, heard shocking evidence that a former paratrooper stationed in Northern Ireland used the skull of Henry Thornton, a man killed in the area, as an ashtray.

Other soldiers have testified that their former colleagues ran sweepstakes and awarded winnings based on the number of civilians a person killed, about crude language and jokes made about those shot, and of a general attitude that anyone walking around in certain areas (always working class) could be presumed to have IRA involvement, and so was fair game to kill.

One paratrooper broke down in tears as he described how many fellow soldiers were honest, professional and did the right thing, but some were “psychopaths and dangerous to be around”, boasting after shootings that “the army would give them cover for whatever they had done”.

Comments made in recent weeks suggest several high-profile Tories are inclined to do just that. Last week, Johnny Mercer announced on Twitter that he would stop voting with the government on non-Brexit issues until May promised to end “the macabre spectacle of elderly veterans being dragged back to Northern Ireland to face those who seek to re-fight that conflict through other means.”

Johnny Mercer

Back in March, when the Public Prosecution Service announced it would prosecute the man known as Soldier F for involvement in the Bloody Sunday massacre that occured a few months after the Ballymurphy massacre, Mercer said in an interview on Channel 4 that the inquiry probably hadn’t been fair – but couldn’t offer any explanation as to how.

And a few hours after the PPS’s decision, Gavin Williamson penned a statement promising that the state would fund Soldier F’s legal costs, and decrying the unfair treatment of the armed services.

Previous inquiries have already found that Soldier F had perjured himself, and that he admitted to having killed 4 civilians, including Patrick Doherty, shot in the back as he crawled away, and Barney McGuigan, who witnesses report died waving a white flag.

Karen Bradley, not to be outdone, provoked an outraged response from victim’s families in the same week, when she stood in the House of Commons and called the actions of soldiers in Northern Ireland “dignified and appropriate”.

References to fairness and being “dragged back to Northern Ireland” appear to deliberately evoke images of elderly, low level soldiers being dealt shadowy justice by armed paramilitaries, simply for the crime of doing their job.

In reality, a legitimate legal process has shown that several individuals behaved in a deeply disturbing way while stationed in Northern Ireland, acting with disregard for the lives of the people of the people who lived there.

The protest comes as Parachute Regiment flags and banners backing former troops have appeared in loyalist areas in recent weeks. And goes to prove there was collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British Crown Forces

Such behaviour shames army members who acted properly, and it is deeply worrying that any politician should seek to defend it.

It is also worth remembering that lots of what happened during the Troubles was unfair and disquieting, but still legal.

My mum was a child living in the Bogside area of Derry during the 1970s, she remembers how it was normal for soldiers looking for scraps of information to ransack houses and hold men in prison overnight.

She remembers regular instances when: “Soldiers would come to the house, break down the door, break a random few plates, turn over a few beds, break a window, hold my brother (who was 10) up against a wall and pretend to shoot him, then go outside and pretend to shoot a dog.”

Male relatives would vanish for days at a time, held under dubious pretexts, and people lived in a constant climate of fear. This was all legal, and for the sake of the Peace Process Northern Irish people have had to let go of resentment over being treated like this.

The price of peace has been a collective swallowing of pride over such harassment, but the murder of civilians is another matter.

Recent inquests into Bloody Sunday, and now the Ballymurphy Massacre, have dealt in specifics: the impossibility of a soldier’s statement when his bullets were found in a body; the things people were said to have been doing, and the positions in which their bodies were found; bodies in morgues wearing clothes they had never worn in life; and guns held in dead hands in strange, unlikely positions.

The collective memory is more general: caked blood, an overwhelming funeral with 13 coffins, and the sense of unfairness at a civil rights march turned into something far more violent.

In the weeks leading up to Bloody Sunday, rising tensions between the local community and the army had led to the Bogside having been sealed off “in a kind of ghetto”, as my mum describes it, with people unable to access schools or hospitals, and forced to smuggle in food from across the border in Donegal.

A few days before the march, the army broke into the community and “bombarded everyone living there, kids and everything, with tear gas.”

Locals sensed it wouldn’t be safe to have young children there and she was sent to Donegal for the day itself but, 45 years later, she remembers the aftermath vividly: “I remember passing all the hardened blood in the street.

Seeing it all there. There hadn’t been rubbish collection for weeks because we’d been barricaded in for so long, so it was rubbish covered in blood. People put flowers on the street, and nearly every place you walked had blood somewhere.”

Northern Irish people are British citizens, and Tory MPs should represent their interests before soldiers found guilty of murder but, in a way, it is understandable that those like Johnny Mercer, Gavin Williamson and Karen Bradley feel no affinity with the working-class communities most impacted by The Troubles.

Mercer, now 37, was a 17-year-old at private school in Surrey the year the Good Friday Agreement was signed, Gavin Williamson was at University in Bradford and Karen Bradley was working as a senior tax advisor in London; all a world away from the violence and terror in Northern Ireland at the time.

Careless statements made by Tory politicians have charged the already polarised atmosphere in Northern Ireland by fostering an “us and them” narrative of British soldiers and Nationalist paramilitaries with nothing in between.

You can’t condemn the army, the argument seems to go, since then the paramilitaries get off scot free. Actually you can, and should, condemn both.

Sara Canning with Arlene Foster

Sara Canning, the partner of the young journalist Lyra McKee, who was murdered by a sectarian gang, gave a masterclass in doing so in an interview several weeks after losing the love of her life, saying, “Soldiers who indiscriminately opened fire in the Bogside on Bloody Sunday are no different to the thug that opened fire on Creggan on Holy Thursday and shot Lyra.

They shot a gun indiscriminately towards a crowd. There is no difference.” Why is it that some MPs are unable to present a similar critique review without resorting to point-scoring bias?

Expose the ‘dark money’ bankrolling our politics
US Christian ‘fundamentalists’, some linked to Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, have poured at least $50m of ‘dark money’ into Europe over the past decade.

With many thanks to: Open Democracy and Rachel Connolly for the original story

Ballymurphy inquest: Rifles ‘may have been in paramilitary hands’

An inquest is examining the murders of 10 people shot dead by the British Army Parachute Regiment at Ballymurphy in August 1971

Loyalist and republican paramilitary groups and the Army may have possessed the weapons most likely used in the Ballymurphy shootings, according to expert witnesses.

An inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the area in west Belfast in August 1971.

A report was presented to the court on Wednesday from ballistics experts.

They are acting on behalf of the Coroner’s Service, the Ministry of Defence and the victims’ next of kin.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Daniel Teggart, and Joseph Murphy were fatally shot in an area of waste ground near the Henry Taggart base on 9 August 1971, the day that internment without trial was introduced.

It is thought that almost all of the victims were struck by bullets from a rifle, although it is possible that Noel Phillips was not.

He was struck by 9mm bullets, which may have been fired by a military pistol or a submachine gun on semi or automatic fire.

Intelligence reliability challenged

Some of the rifle bullets could be clearly identified as having come from an SLR weapon (self-loading rifle), identical to those issued to British soldiers.

However, the experts quoted police intelligence that such SLR weapons could also have been in the possession of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries at the time.

The 1971 shootings took place during the introduction of internment without trail

A barrister for Joan Connolly’s family challenged the reliability of that intelligence.

The question arose of exactly when SLR weapons fell into paramilitary hands.

Turning to the injuries of the victims, the ballistics experts told the court:

Joan Connolly was shot three to four times and a fragment of an SLR round was found in her body
Noel Phillips was shot three to four times, at least twice by 9mm bullets, one of which was recovered from his body
Daniel Teggart was shot eight to 11 times but no bullets were recovered
Joseph Murphy was struck at least once in the thigh and a bullet fragment recovered after an exhumation of his body was of a rifle type, which could have included an SLR

‘No evidence of victims firing weapons’
The experts could not say whether the victims had been moving or static when shot or where the shooters had been located.

They agreed that all the shots could have come from the Henry Taggart Army base but could also have come from several other places, such as the waste ground, Vere Foster school, Springmartin and the Springfield Road.

The experts also agreed that none of the victims had been shot from a range closer than about a metre (3ft 4in).

Three of the victims – Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips and Joseph Murphy – could not have been shot by the kind of Mauser rifle that Witness X – the so-called Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) interlocutor – has claimed was being fired by the loyalist paramilitary group that day.

Witness X has not given oral evidence to the inquest.

The Manse field area in Ballymurphy is opposite the Henry Taggart Hall

The ballistics experts also agreed there was no evidence that any of the victims had been firing weapons, although it was noted that their clothes had not been scientifically examined.

Michael Mansfield QC, the barrister for the family of Noel Phillips, spoke at length with Ann Kiernan, a ballistics expert for the next of kin.

Miss Kiernan used a mannequin and tracking rods to demonstrate to the court the positions of Mr Phillips’ injuries.

She agreed with Mr Mansfield’s suggestion that it was possible that Mr Phillips could have been shot by a pistol held as close as two or more feet away, as he lay face down on the ground with an arm raised.

But she could not discount the possibility that the weapon, either a pistol or a sub machine gun, had been fired from the Henry Taggart base or elsewhere.

The court heard that two other victims, Father Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn, could have been shot by SLRs.

They died on waste ground near Springfield Park on 9 August 1971.

The evidence came in another agreed note from ballistics experts.

They agreed:

Fr Mullan was shot at least twice by rifle bullets while kneeling or lying down and those bullets could have come from an SLR
Frank Quinn was shot in the head by an SLR bullet, which some experts think may have first passed through Fr Mullan, who was beside him
Frank Quinn could not have been shot by the UVF Mauser rifle described by Witness X

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Will Leitch for the original story


Some soldiers at Ballymurphy like ‘psychopaths’, ex-paratrooper says

Martha Campbell, a 13-year-old Catholic girl, was shot dead by the British Army Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy, Belfast on 14th of May 1972

Martha Campbell murdered by the British Army 14th May 1972

No enquiry, nor investigation has ever taken place surrounding the circumstances of Martha’s tragic death.

About 8.15pm on Sunday May 14, 1972, Martha, was walking along Springhill Crescent, Ballymurphy with her friend, they were on their way to visit another friend who lived in Springhill Crescent. The previous day had seen an explosion at Kelly’s Bar, on the Whiterock Road, Belfast, and widespread trouble had followed, involving the security forces, loyalist and republican paramilitaries, all firing at each other from different locations.

However, during the time Martha was shot, there had been no gunfire for a the few hours previous. Martha noticed a man in the street she knew and started to walk towards him. The shooting began and the man called out to her to lie down, but Martha continued walking towards him. When Martha got within a few feet of the man, a single shot rang out and Martha fell to the ground. She was taken to a nearby house and a volunteer from the St Johns Ambulance service administered first aid and called for an ambulance. Martha was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where she was certified as being dead on arrival.

With many thanks to the: James Connolly Association, Brisbane, Australia for the original story

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