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Issue #1605      August 7, 2013

Free the truth

Ballymurphy Massacre

August 9, 1971: this date is firmly etched in the minds of many people in the Occupied Six Counties of Ireland. It is the date of the start of “Operation Demetrius”, more commonly known as the start of internment.

Internment without trial in the Six Counties started on August 9, 1971. It was the Stormont government’s military response to a popular uprising against a politically bankrupt unionist regime. Operation Demetrius saw thousands of British soldiers descend on nationalists areas, kick their way into homes and drag hundreds of men away to be incarcerated in prison camps without charge or trial.

The message of internment to northern nationalists was clear: the Stormont regime and Westminster were not interested in finding a political solution to the crisis situation in the north. The unionist regime opted for military repression in line with the military mindset that was the cornerstone of the British and unionist governments’ strategy for dealing with northern nationalist aspirations for progressive change.

What a lot of people don’t realise is that this is also the date on which a murderous spree, conducted by the parachute regiment of the British Army, commenced and finished three days later on August 11. During this three day period of selective slaughter, in Ballymurphy, Belfast, 11 unarmed civilians were murdered including a Catholic Priest and a mother of eight, who were both killed trying to help the wounded.

The families of the 11 victims of this senseless massacre have, for the last 42 years attempted to obtain justice. They have been blocked at every instance and denied the chance to have the names of their loved ones cleared of any wrong doing. The British Army claimed that the soldiers returned fire on IRA gunmen; how then could a priest be shot in the back, all victims were forensically tested, none produced positive results for gunshot residue or for even having held a weapon.

Why didn’t the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) conduct an investigation into the murders and why does the British government continue to deny the families their right to a fair and impartial investigation into what happened all those years ago. Why have the murderers not been held to account for their actions on those fateful days.

Eleven families lost loved ones during that period, mothers, fathers and brothers.

They deserve justice. We can all help; even a message of support will go a long way to show these families that they are not alone and that we stand in solidarity with their cause.

Ballymurphy massacre timeline

The first of the killings took place on the August 9 in Springfield Park. Bobby Clark was trying to get kids to safety when he was shot and wounded, people couldn’t get to his aid as they were pinned down by gunfire from the British Army.

The second person to be shot, the first to die was the local parish priest, Father Hugh Mullan. Father Mullan went to help Bobby Clark. He was waving a white cloth. Father Mullan anointed the wounded man and was then shot.

The second death was that of Frank Quinn who left his place of safety to help others and was fatally wounded.

Noel Phillips was shot as he tried to find cover from the gunfire. As he lay crying for help, a woman, Joan Connolly, a mother of eight, went to his aid whilst saying, “it’s alright son I’m coming to you”.

Joan Connolly was shot in the face. As she staggered around, she was shot a further three times. As she lay on the ground, locals tried to help her and were shot by the British soldiers. Daniel Teggart, a father of 13, was shot whilst running for cover. He was shot a further 14 times while lying on the ground.

Joseph Murphy was shot in the leg. He did not, like all the victims, receive any medical attention, instead he was taken to the army barracks and severely beaten. He was to die three weeks later from injuries received during the beating.

August 10

As he was making his way home on the Whiterock Road, Eddie Doherty was shot in the back by a member of the parachute regiment. As with all the victims, Eddie did not receive any medical treatment and subsequently died of hid wounds.

August 11

Early in the morning of August 11, John Laverty was shot dead.

Joseph Corr, a father of seven was also shot and succumbed to his wounds on the 27th August.

The army account claimed that both men were armed and firing at the soldiers. Ballistic and forensic tests proved this to be a lie, but to this day the British Army version is the “official version”.

Paddy McCarthy was shot in the hand as he attempted to leave the local community centre to deliver milk and bread. He continued with his deliveries later on and was stopped and beaten by the soldiers. As a result Paddy McCarthy suffered a massive heart attack and died.

John McKerr was the eleventh victim of the Ballymurphy Massacre, shot by an army sniper, John McKerr died of his wounds on August 20.

The parachute regiment committed the atrocities in Ballymurphy. If they had been bought to account would it have prevented Bloody Sunday in Derry? The same regiment was responsible for 14 more deaths six months later when they killed 14 civil rights marchers in the city of Derry.

The families of Ballymurphy have for far too long been denied the justice they so rightly deserve.

What they are asking for – no – what they are demanding is a fully independent international investigation to examine all the circumstances surrounding all of the deaths: the British government to issue a statement of innocence for all the victims and a public apology.

Surely this is not too much to ask for after 42 long years.

What can we do to help the families?

Have information nights to explain what happened in Ballymurphy; sign up to the families’ demands for a statement of innocence and a public apology.

Write letters of support and encouragement; write to the British government to support the families’ call for an independent investigation.

The 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre Committee

c/o Frank Cahill Resource Centre.
195 Whiterock Road. Belfast BT12 7FW.

E-Mail: admin@ballymurphymassacre.com.

I have personally met with some of the families and to see the determination in their eyes and to hear the horror stories they relate made me realise that there will never truly be peace in the North of Ireland unless we help these people obtain closure. They are not asking for the world.

They just want to FREE THE TRUTH!

JUSTICE FOR BALLYMURPHY!

James Connolly Association Australia   

Next article – Turkey: Uprising’s currents run deep

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