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
Follow these links to find out more: https://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/springhill-the-forgotten-massacre/
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>http://<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>RTÉ is the first public broadcaster in the world to commit to showing “No Stone Unturned” feature documentary by <a href=”https://twitter.com/alexgibneyfilm?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@alexgibneyfilm</a> and Belfast journalists <a href=”https://twitter.com/trevorbirney?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@trevorbirney</a> and Barry McCaffrey on the Loughinisland Massacre. Watch <a href=”https://twitter.com/RTEOne?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@RTEOne</a> Wednesday 2 October 9.35pm <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TruthMatters?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TruthMatters</a> <a href=”https://t.co/96QqDunF2W”>pic.twitter.com/96QqDunF2W</a></p>— RTÉ Press Office (@RTEPress) <a href=”https://twitter.com/RTEPress/status/1174689592571760640?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>September 19, 2019</a></blockquote> https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
THERE’S an old proverb about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
And friends of mine have occasionally tried to explain away unionism’s vice-like grip on the first 50 years of the North of Ireland by quoting it. They claim the unionist government which oversaw the North of Ireland always planned to do better, but never quite got there. There’s no doubt that in 1921 after the partition of Ireland was complete, unionist leaders had a chance to create a northern state where few Catholics would have opted to join the newly-formed 26 County Free State.
But religious bigotry at the heart of at the heart of the Stormont regime meant that opportunity was passed over. And instead unionism firmly pulled the shutters down tight. It viewed every Catholic citizen with suspicion. Unionist Party leaders ignored the parting advice of Sir Edward Carson – the public face of unionism – to be kind to the minority. And although not publicly acknowledged, some unionist establishment figures even gave the green light to loyalist gunmen to wage a war of attrition against Catholics. Pogroms were terrifying and real, with hundreds losing their lives as the contrived state of the North of Ireland became a political reality. A semi-secret plan was hatched where police officers like the infamous DI Nixon were allowed to run their own murder gangs. Their intention was to grind Catholics into submission and force them to accept that they now lived in a place where only those loyal to Britain ruled the roost. Rejecting unionist offers of top police jobs abroad. Nixon eventually quit the RUC to become an Independent Unionist MP.
And until the day he died, he repeatedly threatened to expose fellow unionist politicians’ involvement in violence at the foundation of the state. Eventually many Catholics accepted their diminished status and kept their heads down. Occasional IRA attacks in the north and in England posed no threat to the northern state. But the 1947 Education Act – forced on unionist by the British government – created an articulate Catholic middle class no longer willing to accept the status quo.
In 1967, along with other interested groups – including the remnants of the Irish Republican Movement – these people formed the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. The organisation had the stated aim of replacing unionist discrimination in jobs, housing and voting rights with British liberal values. It was well received in Ireland and also in the rest of the UK, where people were shocked to learn that the North of Ireland citizens hadn’t the same rights as them. The North of Ireland Prime Minister Captain Terence O’Neill (who the unionist claimed was a Lundy) – steeped in the unionist landed gentry – knew in his heart that if the union was to survive, then things needed to change. But a rabble-rousing fundamentalist preacher called Ian Paisley – who led his own Free Presbyterian Church – had other ideas. He had an ability to tap into ancient Protestant fears and suspicions. And he helped form a series of new loyalist paramilitary organisations opposed to any reforms proposed by O’Neill. Paisley was following in the footsteps of his close friend and hero DI Nixon, a police officer turned politician who had terrorised Catholics at the foundation of the state. Much of Paisley’s involvement with the reconstituted Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) was denied because the authorities feared the clergyman’s Svengali-like powers. But this week – in the first of a new seven part series of TV programmes to mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Troubles – Paisley’s real role in the violence is exposed.
Spotlight on the Troubles: A Secret History goes out simultaneously on BBC Northern and BBC4 on Tuesday night. Using first-hand testimony of individuals who were around at the time, reporter Darragh McIntyre reveals how Ian Paisley personally financed the UVF bombing of a water pipe line at the Silent Valley Reservoir near Kilkeel in April 1969. Paisley and his cohorts attempted to give the impression that the explosion, coming as it did months before serious violence erupted on the streets of Derry and Belfast, was the work of the practically moribund IRA. But a retired senior British Army officer, drafted in to examine the aftermath of the bomb, told MacIntyre his suspensions were raised as soon as he saw the bomb site. “This just didn’t have the look of an IRA bomb,” he said. And he went on to claim that a senior RUC officer in Killkeel showed him intelligence reports which revealed the entire operation had been financed by Paisley.
As Paisley’s UVF mates were bombing the place, a young butcher’s apprentice by the name of Martin McGuinness was about to quit his job to assume the role of 2nd in Command of the Provisional IRA in Derry.
In newly emerged footage, McGuinness is filmed overseeing an IRA bomb being loaded into the boot of a car. McGuinness sits in the passenger seat and, minutes later, it is transported to Derry city centre and detonated. And in another remarkable clip, McGuinness instructs children on how to load bullets into a revolver.
It is almost beyond belief that 3,500 deaths later, these two men were sworn into office as the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in a new devolved administration at Stormont. But they also became close personal friends.
In an astonishing revelation near the end of the first programme, MacIntyre reveals written details of a top secret report by Sir Michael Carver, the most senior officer in the British Army. In the report, Carver advises the British government to consider an alternative strategy which doesn’t demand maintaining the North of Ireland border by military means, (what Brexit will mean).I.e. British withdrawal.
Spotlight editor Jeremy Adams say he’s proud his talented team of investigative reporters consisting of McIntyre, Jennifer O’Leary and Mandy McAuley, have been able to uncover new findings relating to the history of the Troubles. “This past has shaped our present and it’s vitally important that truths continue to be told,” he said. I’m in no doubt that this body of work from the awarding-winning BBC Spotlight team will become the definitive television history of the Troubles. This series of programmes – which uncovers much previously unknown material – is informative, revealing, shocking and at times very, very moving. It was an enormous undertaking for the reporters and filmmakers involved, but once again, BBC Spotlight comes through with flying colours. Don’t miss it.
Follow these links to find out more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-11313364