Ballymurphy Inquest: Paratroopers ‘just opened up’ on group

Nine men and a woman were murdered in Ballymurphy in August 1971

Paratroopers “just opened up” on a group of people standing near their base, the Ballymurphy Inquest has heard.

The inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the Ballymurphy area in August 1971.

They died during the first few days after the introduction of internment.

Four people died and several others were injured after what the inquest describes as “Incident 2”.

Who were the Ballymurphy victims?

Shooting witness suffers PTSD
Those who died in the shooting outside the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, on the Springfield Road, were Joan Connolly, Joseph Murphy, Daniel Teggart and Noel Phillips.

The inquest has been listening to statements about the incident from those who are now deceased, cannot be traced or are too ill to attend and give evidence in person.

The former Henry Taggart Memorial Church Hall was being used as a base by soldiers from the Parachute Regiment.

The victims had been standing opposite, across the road in a grassy area where there had previously been the manse of a local Presbyterian minister.

Relatives and supporters gathered outside Lagan side Courts ahead of the start of the inquests

Several witnesses had given statements saying that around half a dozen paratroopers emerged from the base in the evening and “just opened up” on them with their SLR rifles.

The statements explained how some parents were out looking for missing children amid the arrests by the Army and general turmoil of the first day of internment.

Paul Connolly’s statement, given in recent weeks, told how his mother went to look for his sister and never returned.

‘They blew her face off’
Mr Connolly cannot attend the inquest due to ill health.

He explained how the next day his father went to find her.

He later returned to the family home and said: “It’s your mother, they blew her face off.”

Joanie Crone’s statement described how her husband Dessie had hidden in the field opposite the barracks as others were around him were shot and later managed to crawl to safety, despite continuing gunfire from the army base.

Two men described hearing a child crying in the darkness and how they managed to persuade him to crawl through a fence to safety.

The boy, Edward Butler, had been shot in the leg but survived, and is expected to give evidence in person in March.

Who were the victims?
Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Francis Quinn, 19, were shot in an area of open ground behind Springfield Park
Daniel Teggart, 44, Joan Connolly, 44, Noel Phillips, 19, and Joseph Murphy, 41, were shot near the Henry Taggart Army base near Springfield Park
John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were shot at separate points at the top of Whiterock Road
Edward Doherty, 31, was shot at the corner of Brittons Parade and Whiterock Road
John McKerr, 49, was shot outside the old Corpus Christi Parish
Joseph Murphy’s widow, May, described talking to him in hospital after the shooting, before his condition worsened, and he later died.

He described being taken into the base, and being beaten and kicked, with rubber bullets being fired into his body at point blank range.

Mr Murphy told his wife that his wounds, and those of others, were only dressed after the intervention of a younger soldier and an Army padre also in the base.

Willie Ward’s statement described how he ran to safety with others, only noticing later that he had been shot in the shoulder.

He sought treatment from his doctor, his statement said, but had not gone to hospital, because he had heard that anyone with a gunshot wound was being interned as a matter of course.

None of the statements contained any reference to a weapon being held by anyone in the area immediately opposite the barracks when the shooting began.

At the time. the Army told journalists that the soldiers had responded to gunfire and had shot gunmen, something the families of the victims have consistently denied.

Anonymity and screening
Later the coroner heard submissions on the issue of future military witnesses at the inquest.

Seven former soldiers called to give evidence have applied for anonymity and screening during proceedings.

Another soldier appeared under such conditions at the inquest in 2018, although relatives of the man he admitted shooting, Edward Doherty, were permitted to see his face while he gave evidence.

The barrister for the Teggart and Phillips families suggested to the coroner that the risk to the lives of some of the former soldiers giving evidence was “vanishingly small”.

He said screening and anonymity was not necessary.

He asked of former soldiers, called to testify: “Is there a single incident or instance in judicial proceedings in Northern Ireland of a witness being threatened, let alone being actually attacked or physically assaulted in any way?

“There aren’t any.”

Other barristers endorsed his comments.

The barrister for the Murphy family said some of the applications by former soldiers were “straight out of the theatre of the absurd”.

However, using recent statistics of terrorist attacks, a barrister for the Ministry of Defence argued that the risk to former soldiers was “real and continuing”.

Counsel to the inquest suggested that each military witness should be asked if he or she desires to be screened from the next of kin.

The court heard that this process has already begun.

With many thanks to: BBC News for the original story

The Ballymurphy Precedent – March For Justice

Ballymurphy Massacre shootings: Experts uncertain over bullet

A picture of John Makers and his wife Maureen (Image ©copyright McKerr family)

The Ballymurphy Inquest has heard that ballistics experts cannot be sure which kind of bullet struck one of the victims or where the shooter was located.

There has been evidence suggesting several locations for the person who shot John McKerr, 49.

Mr McKerr died on Westrock Drive in August 1971.

He was one of 10 people who were shot and killed in west Belfast over a three-day period.

Some of the evidence has suggested the shot that killed Mr McKerr may have been aimed and fired by a paratrooper standing on the junction of Ballymurphy Road and Westrock Drive.

It has also been considered whether the shot could have been fired from a different direction, from a nearby area known as Corry’s Timber Yard.

The court has heard that local people considered the yard to be an observation post or sniper position used by the Army.

Ballymurphy: Who were the victims?
Because of the oblique angle at which Mr McKerr’s head was struck, three ballistics experts have been unable to conclude if the shot was from a low or high-velocity weapon.

A soldier’s SLR rifle would fire a high-velocity bullet, and a low-velocity bullet might come from a pistol or sub-machine gun.

‘Numerous locations’
All three of the ballistics experts think both are possible.

However, the ballistics expert for the next of kin considers a high-velocity bullet more likely to have caused Mr McKerr’s injuries.

The court heard that other types of weapon than those used by soldiers could fire such a bullet.

The court also heard evidence of “numerous” locations from which a stray bullet could conceivably have come.

It could also have been a ricochet shot.

Nine men and a woman were murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre in West Belfast in August 1971

Earlier, the inquest heard how the son of one of the first victims killed said he later saw another shooting.

Paul Connolly’s mother Joan was the only woman killed over the three days of shootings in August 1971.

Mr Connolly has been unable to give evidence at the inquest in person due to ill health, but has provided statements to the Coroner’s investigator.

Witnessed single shot
Mr Connolly remembered watching a soldier from his home on Ballymurphy Road.

He recalled looking out as his father set off to go and identify the body of his wife, Joan Connolly.

Paul Connolly said that, as he watched, the soldier fired a single shot in the direction of Corpus Christi Church, outside which John McKerr was walking.

Mr Connolly’s statements explain that he walked far enough from his home to see Mr McKerr’s body, without approaching it.

The inquest into John McKerr’s death has now finished hearing evidence.

Two of the 10 deaths over three days in August 1971 have been examined in detail so far.

The Ballymurphy Inquest will resume public hearings in the new year.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story.

Springhill Westrock Massacre Mass And Mural Unvailing

The Springhill/Westrock Massacre families gathered in Corpus Christi Church for a remembrance and solidarity mass for their loved ones Fr Noel Fitzpatrick, Paddy Butler and three teenage children – Margaret Gargan (13), David McCafferty (15) and John Dougal (16).

In his homily Fr Paddy McCafferty said “we are here in solidarity with their bereaved families, offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in loving remembrance of these further innocent victims of the British Army” and that families are seeking “ justice and truth” in regard to the slaughter of their loved ones.

Fr Paddy’s powerfull words quoted below:

“The brutal abuse of power that let loose, in this community, trigger-happy soldiers who saw themselves as unaccountable, as a law unto themselves, cries out to Heaven for redress.”

“The slain innocent ones require vindication. In the name of their innocent loved ones, the families of Fr Noel, Paddy, Margaret, John and David, also demand justice and truth.”

“The Ballymurphy, Springhill/Westrock Massacres were all of a piece. Sixteen innocent people, including two priests of the Parish, were shot down in cold blood. No one has been made answerable. No one, with responsibility in civil society, has ever expressed sorrow to the families of these victims.”

“No remorse. No seeking of forgiveness. Instead, the arrogance of unaccountable power, the hard-hearted brutal ignorance of men who imagine themselves beyond the reach of those laws designed to protect all citizens, equally, in any society worthy of the name ‘civilised’.”

“It is an intolerable and outrageous affront, to human decency, that the families of Fr Noel, Paddy, David, Margaret and John, have been treated with such callousness and contempt. Such profound disrespect and cold indifference, to still grieving families, forty-six years after these crimes were committed, is unacceptable and unconscionable.”

After the mass families along with friends and supporters made their was the short distance from Corpus Christi Church to unveil a new mural remembering those murdered on 9th July 1072. Harry Gargan the brother of Margaret Gargan spoke to those gathered firstly commending the Ballymurphy Massacre families for setting an example to others, for their courage and dignity in getting the inquests into their loved ones deaths up and running.

Harry also pointed out that those murdered in the Springhill/Westrock massacre “were not running away from the shooting. They were running towards it” to help others who had been shot and wounded.

Harry spoke about tis sister Margaret and said she was more concerned about her family “My sister Margaret was doing what sisters do” she was going about making sure her family were okay.

Harry thanked everyone for attending and asked for continued support as the Springhill Westrock families continue for fight for truth and justice for their loved ones.

With many thanks to: Ciaran Cahill for the original posting.

Royal Mail man branded an ‘idiot’ for waving Para flag is a convicted thug

North of Ireland football supporter Paul Harding holding the regimental flag of the Parachute Regiment

The fan branded an idiot after being caught waving a Parachute Regiment flag before Northern Ireland’s match against the Republic is a convicted football thug.

Postman Paul Harding (41) was pictured with the banner at a roadside service station on the way to Thursday night’s goalless draw at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

The Royal Mail worker’s behaviour has been condemned as provocative by nationalists as inquests into the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre, when 11 civilians were killed by the Parachute Regiment, opened last week.

Hooligan Harding has previous form for appalling behaviour at football matches and in 2005 was given a suspended jail sentence for rioting at a Glentoran v Linfield game.

Magistrate Desmond Perry compared his behaviour during clashes at the Oval to that of a “wild animal”.

Harding, whose postal round covers the Sydenham area of east Belfast, was convicted after being photographed by Sunday Life running onto the pitch.

On Thursday he was among thousands of fans who crossed the border to attend the friendly match.

It was marred by poor crowd behaviour, with both national anthems booed and sectarian chanting throughout.

Politicians on both sides of the border condemned as “idiots” the small sections of supporters who were involved.

Harding was on a mini-coach of Northern Ireland fans that travelled from east Belfast to the match.

He was seen getting off the vehicle at a roadside service station and waving a purple Parachute Regiment flag at Republic supporters.

The Army unit was responsible for shooting dead 14 innocent civilians in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

Another video posted online shows a Republic fan attach a tricolour to the back of a Northern Ireland supporters coach that had stopped at another service station.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney condemned the behaviour of some fans at the game.

He said: “Embarrassed that a small number of fans booed the national anthem of Northern Ireland tonight at the Aviva. Competitive friendly, but Northern Ireland were our guests tonight in Dublin.”

Gardai said there were a small number of clashes at the game, but no arrests were made.

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie also hit out at the booing of the national anthems and sectarian chanting.

He added: “I think it is pretty simple – we should all show respect to a nation’s national anthem.

“Each national anthem needs to be shown respect on sporting occasions like this and ordinarily it normally would.

“But I think this was not right to be honest.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph for the original story.

The Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group picket the Irish Embassy, Justice for the Ballymurphy 11, Saturday, 13th October 2018.

The Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group picket the Irish Embassy, Justice for the Ballymurphy 11, Saturday, 13 October 2018 from 17:00-18:00 Irish Embassy, 17 Grosvenor Pl, Belgravia, London, SW1X 7HR.

We believe the material revealed in the Chanel 4 documentary adds to the accumulated evidence against General Sir Frank Kitson, and General Sir Michael Jackson as war criminals and we demand the Irish government brings these charges against them in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The Honourable Adrian O’Neill
Irish Ambassador, Embassy of Ireland
17 Grosvenor Place
London. SW1X-7HR
Dear Ambassador O’Neill,
We trust you have seen the Channel 4 documentary Massacre at Ballymurphy. This brutally exposed the hidden history of British military repression against civilians in the north of Ireland. It brings into focus the role of General Sir Frank Edward Kitson, and General Sir Michael David Jackson. We believe the material revealed in this documentary adds to the accumulated evidence against these two and this warrants the Irish government bringing charges of war crimes against them in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Frank Kitson
London School of Economics Professor James Hughes in History Ireland, Jan/Feb 2004, tells us that Kitson received the Military Cross (MC) on 1 January 1955 for service in the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, and was awarded a Bar to it on 23 May 1958, for service in the Malayan Emergency the previous year.
In 2012 the British High Court found that British troops perpetrated the Batang Kali massacre in Malaya in 1948, killing 24 defenceless civilians. In May 2012 High Court decided not to hold a public hearing into the killing but also ruled that Britain was responsible for the killing of the 24 civilians. The court proclaimed, “There is evidence that supports a deliberate execution at Batang Kali.” When the case went to the United Kingdom Supreme Court in November 2015 it ruled that the government did not have to hold a public inquiry even though it may have been a war crime, because the atrocity occurred too long ago. His citation for his actions in Malaya was, “For exceptional skill and leadership as a Company Commander during jungle operations. By his devotion to duty he attained the virtual elimination of two communist party branches in a difficult area.”
Frank Kitson was central to these operations and the state acknowledged this with a Bar to his Military Cross.
In 2013 William Hague, then Britain’s foreign secretary, apologised and accepted that its security forces had tortured, mutilated and raped Mau Mau fighters. He agreed to compensate up to 8,000 victims and to build a memorial to them in Nairobi. The monument is part of a 2013 out-of-court settlement by the UK government when it agreed to pay £20m in compensation to Mau Mau veterans. Tens of thousands of Kenyans were held in detention camps during the Mau Mau campaign. Many suffered abuses including beatings, rape and castration. The Kenya Human Rights Commission says 90,000 Kenyans were executed, tortured or maimed, and 160,000 people were detained in appalling conditions, according to the BBC report of 12 September 2015.
Kitson got his Military Cross for this.
Professor Hughes then points out that the Saville Report (2010) into Bloody Sunday and the de Silva Report (2013) on collusion with loyalist paramilitaries (into the murder of solicitor Pat Finucane, etc)
“led to two further ‘unconditional’ British apologies for the behaviour of its security forces in Northern Ireland. In November 2013, a BBC ‘Panorama’ investigation into British counterinsurgency in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s revealed that members of a special covert operations unit known as the Military Reaction Force (MRF) admitted to the murder of suspects and unarmed Catholic civilians. These admissions by the state or its agents confirm previous claims by critics dating back many decades. Such abuses were not merely low-level tactical excesses by undisciplined and racist troops but were institutional, systematic, and approved or covered up at the highest levels.”
Again, Kitson was central to these affairs.
BBC News, on 27 April 2015 reports “Ex-army chief General Sir Frank Kitson sued over 1973 killing in Belfast”.
“Proceedings have been issued against the Ministry of Defence and General Sir Frank Kitson. A former senior Army officer is to be sued over the death of a Catholic man in Northern Ireland. Mary, the widow of Eugene “Paddy” Heenan, 47 who murdered by the UDA in 1973 when travelling to work in a minivan, is suing the Ministry of Defence and Kitson because she claims Paddy died because of negligence and misfeasance in office.”
Frank Kitson, the British army’s acknowledged expert on counterinsurgency, was sent to Belfast as a brigade commander from September 1970 to April 1972. He was responsible for Belfast and surrounding districts. Kitson has been named as a co-defendant in the legal action by Mary Heenan on the grounds that he and others had “used agents knowing, or that they should have known that they would take part in criminal actions”.
Her solicitor, the well-known Kevin Winters of KRW Law, said:
“Given that those agents were embedded with paramilitary groups and the nature of Northern Ireland at the time, it was reasonably foreseeable that activity could include murder. Frank Kitson was therefore negligent in creating the policy and the ministry of defence were negligent when allowing its implementation. The policy created the expectation that people working for the state would commit murder,”
He claimed in the legal paters that “Kitson is liable personally for negligence and misfeasance in public office”, and that he had been “reckless as to whether state agents would be involved in murder”.
As late as 2003 a story in the Observer/Guardian confirmed this practice was ongoing:
“The most senior British Army intelligence officer in Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s invited the feared Loyalist killer Johnny ‘Mad Dog’ Adair to dinner and oversaw the leaking of military secrets about Republican suspects. Adair’s fingerprints have been found on at least a dozen military intelligence dossiers uncovered during investigations by the Stevens Enquiry team into collusion between loyalists and the security services. The Observer knows the identity of the officer concerned, but he cannot be named for legal reasons.” (The Observer Henry McDonald and Martin Bright Sun 27 Apr 2003 .
Frank Kitson is a war criminal and the Irish government should arraign him before the International Court of Justice in The Hague
Mike Jackson
General Sir Michael Jackson, who was an adjutant in 1 Para in the early 1970s, described Kitson as an ‘incisive thinker and military theorist’, and claimed that ‘he was the sun around which the planets revolved . . . and very much set the tone for the operational style’ in Belfast. He is the acknowledged expert on counter-insurgency in the British Army still, his Low Intensity Operations is a text book for the British Army.
Jackson, later to become head of the British Army, was operating as press officer in Ballymurphy during the massacre in August 1971. He fed the press a complete falsified account of a non-existent ferocious gun battle between the provisional IRA and the paratroopers. The local Unionist press took up the story. The tale was followed by a perfunctory inquest that simply recorded the cause of death of the victims.
These were accompanied by statements by the soldiers of coming under a barrage of fire and firing in self-defence. One soldier spoke of a middle-aged grandmother moving about a field and attacking him with a machine gun. In fact, there was no evidence of a gun battle. No weapons, no rounds, not even empty shell cases were recovered from this battle. The army may well have expected that the IRA would return fire, but the IRA knew about the internment raids were in safe houses.
The same 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment with the same soldiers and commander, using the same methods, and with the same stories of imaginary gun battles, carried out the slaughter of the Derry civil rights march only months later, on 31 January 1972. Again, a large amount of British whitewash absolved the troops in the form of the Widgery Report, which the Saville report exposed as lies.
Mike Jackson was the adjutant at Bloody Sunday; he transferred the methods from Ballymurphy to Derry. He is a war criminal for what he did in Ballymurphy and Derry and the Irish government should arraign him before the International Court of Justice in The Hague for those crimes.
Is sinne, le meas
John Carty Chair
Gerry Downing Secretary
Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group,

With many thanks to: Gerry Joseph Downing for the original posting.