DECADES OF PAIN: BROTHER OF 13-year-old GUN VICTIM SPEAKS OUT
“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.
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.
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”
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.”
CAMPAIGNERS UNCOVER INCREDIBLE DOCUMENT WHICH SHOWS BRITISH ARMY CO-OPERATED WITH TERROR GANG
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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