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

 

Military prosecutions: ‘Unfair’ investigations to be barred

British troops and veterans will be given stronger legal protections against prosecution, Defence Secretary Penny Mordant will announce. Image copyright © REUTERS

The new law would protect them from investigation over actions on the battlefield abroad after 10 years, except in “exceptional circumstances”.

Ms Mordaunt said it would prevent “repeated or unfair investigations”.

The protections, which will be put to a public consultation, would not apply to alleged offences in Northern Ireland.

On taking office earlier this month, after the sacking of Gavin Williamson, Ms Mordaunt said preventing members of the armed forces from being “pursued unfairly” over claims of wrongdoing would be her “personal priority”.

The new protections apply to actions carried out in the course of duty more than a decade ago.

In these cases, there would be a statutory presumption against prosecution for current or former armed forces personnel.

But in exceptional circumstances, such as where compelling new evidence had emerged, the protections could be set aside.

In a statement before the announcement, Ms Mordaunt said: “It is high time that we change the system and provide the right legal protections to make sure the decisions our service personnel take in the battlefield will not lead to repeated or unfair investigations down the line.”

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She is also expected to repeat the government’s commitment to take up a right to suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights before the UK embarks on military operations.

The Ministry of Defence said the suspension, known as “derogation”, would protect British troops from the kind of “persistent” legal claims that followed operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Legal protection for serving and former British soldiers has long been promised, but has proved hard to deliver.

Penny Mordaunt knows that and has made it her priority to do something quickly.

The proposals she is making, though, are limited to allegations of wrongdoing by British troops on the battlefield which happened more than 10 years ago.

That could help protect soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are, however, still dozens of investigations ongoing from both wars, and some will question whether they should be abandoned. And then there is Northern Ireland.

It is the prosecution of veterans who served during the Troubles that has so incensed Tory backbench MPs. And on that issue she has not been able to offer any solution.

An inquiry into allegations against Iraq war veterans was shut down in 2017 after a lawyer representing many of the complainants was found to have acted dishonestly.

The defence secretary is expected to say that lessons from investigating allegations in Iraq and Afghanistan should also be applied to Northern Ireland, although the presumption against prosecution would not apply.

Six former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles are currently facing prosecution.

The cases relate to Daniel Hegarty; Bloody Sunday; John Pat Cunningham; Joe McCann (involving two ex-soldiers); and Aidan McAnespie.

Not all the charges are murder.

The Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland said that of 26 so-called legacy cases it has taken decisions on since 2011, 13 related to republicans, eight to loyalists, and five are connected to the Army.

The proceedings have been criticised by some Tory MPs, including former Army officer Johnny Mercer, who earlier this month said he would not co-operate with the government until it ended the prosecutions.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

BAD NEWS: The British Army Bought The Wrong Tank

The World Challenger 2 Tank

At least that’s the opinion of one retired army officer who during his 20-year career helped to assess tank designs on behalf of U.K. policymakers.

At least that’s the opinion of one retired army officer who during his 20-year career helped to assess tank designs on behalf of U.K. policymakers.

When the Ministry of Defense in 1987 decided to replace its existing Chieftan and Challenger I main battle tanks, according to Stuart Crawford, a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment, the obvious choice was Germany’s own latest tank.

“Leopard 2 was our recommendation,” Stuart wrote at U.K. Defense Journal. “And obviously we were ignored.” The other options were the American M-1A1, the French Leclerc and the British Challenger 2.

The ministry chose the Challenger 2 with its 120-millimeter rifled main gun, four-person crew and questionable automotive reliability. It perhaps shouldn’t have, Stuart wrote.

Stuart explained that he and his fellow army acquisitions officers rated the French Leclerc over the Challenger 2 “because it had an autoloader for its 120-millimeter smoothbore gun and a three-man crew. It could also fire the same ammunition as the Rheinmetall 120-millimeter smoothbore of other NATO nations.”

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“However, at the time, and rightly or wrongly, it was deemed too much of a risk” owing to France’s fractious relationship with NATO.

The four-person American M-1A1 with its 120-millimeter smoothbore gun “was attractive for many of the same reasons and mounted the smoothbore gun, but we had reservations over its gas-turbine engine’s fuel requirements and the logistics implications of catering to that demand.”

“In the end the recommendation of the … staff officers was clear,” Stuart wrote. “Britain’s next tank should ideally be the Leopard 2, mainly for reasons of reliability, impressive mobility and because of its 120-millimeter smoothbore gun, which would give Britain ammunition compatibility and interoperability with our NATO allies (many of whom opted for Leopard 2) and the perceived advantages of economy of scale of production.”

But Stuart and his colleagues appreciated the politics of the ministry’s decision. “We weren’t entirely oblivious to the furious lobbying that was going on in favor of Challenger 2 and recognised that the ‘strategic necessity’ argument for Britain to maintain its own tank design and production expertise might win the day — even when both foreign contenders pledged to set up their production lines in the U.K.”

“A final plea that at the very least Challenger 2 should mount the 120-millimeter smoothbore fell on deaf ears. Obviously the Royal Armored Corps ended up with Challenger 2, and in fairness if has proved to be not a bad MBT even although it has never been confronted by a peer or near-peer enemy.”

The British Army ultimately bought around 900 Challenger 2s but by 2019 had reduced its fleet to just 227 tanks. Challenger 2s in 2017 took part in the British Army’s biggest European exercise in many years. Eight hundred British troops and scores of vehicles deployed to Poland and the Baltic states to train alongside troops from 16 other NATO countries.

But the Challenger 2s have suffered from a lack of upgrades. A new urban camouflage scheme that the Royal Tank Regiment in 2017 applied to a few Challenger 2s belied the vehicles’ unupgraded guns, armor and engines.

At the same time, the United States was rolling out ambitious upgrades for its M-1s while Germany and France embarked on the joint development of a brand-new tank.

The Ministry of Defense in 2019 could award a contract for the Challenger 2’s first major update in years. “Rheinmetall has offered to swap the Challenger’s 120-millimeter rifled gun for a smoothbore weapon, while the BAE-led partnership Team Challenger 2 offered to fit an active protection system,” Defense News reported.

“The army would probably like both, but given the dire state of the defense budget, affording even one of those options is problematic.”

Stuart advised the army to replace the old Challenger 2s — and to pick a foreign design this time. “Maybe this time around the U.K. will be able to swallow its national pride and opt for the best option on offer no matter its country of provenance?”

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad.

With many thanks to: The National Interest and David Axe for the original story

Royal Marines at 45 Commando set their barracks alight by firing military flares through the windows

The blaze wrecked at least half a dozen rooms and had to be put out by firefighters

 

BOOZED-up Royal Marines set their barracks alight by firing military flares through the windows.

The blaze wrecked at least half a dozen rooms and had to be put out by firefighters.

Royal Marines at 45 Commando set off flares through the windows causing thousands of pounds worth of damage

Boozed-up Royal Marines at 45 Commando set off flares through the windows which caught their barracks on fire
Melted light fixtures were part of the damage caused by the drunk Marines

Melted light fixtures we’re part of the damage caused by the Marines

The damage to the barracks are likely to cost thousands to repair

The damage to the barracks is likely to cost thousands in repairs
Top brass are furious about the inferno — said to be the second at 45 Commando’s base this month.

Video sent to The Sun after the latest shows a kitchen, lounge and other rooms blackened by smoke

 

Light fittings have been melted by heat, while an entire corridor has been taped off for repairs.

Insiders claim Marines fired the flares from outside their base — RM Condor near Arbroath, Angus — into the windows on Thursday night.

A source said: “The damage runs into thousands of pounds. Top brass are furious.

“It looks like a night of drinking got way out of control.” The Royal Navy confirmed the incident is under investigation.

In 2016 two soldiers set fire to Allenby Barracks, Bovington, Dorset, after duelling with flares while sitting in kayaks in an outdoor pool.

One flare went through a window, causing £400,000 worth of damage.

Top Brass are said to be furious with the incident which is the second blaze in one month

Top Brass are furious with the incident which is said to be the second blaze in one month
An entire hallway as taped off due to the extensive fire damage

An entire hallway was taped off due to the extensive fire damage

Rooms including kitchens and lounges were blackened by the thick smoke

With many thanks for the EXCLUSIVE: by David Willetts, Defence Editor for The Sun for the original story.

Ballymurphy inquest: General’s ‘sympathy’ for relatives

General Sir Geoffrey Hewlett was commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment 1971

The former commanding officer of a key battalion in the Parachute regiment has said he has “enormous sympathy” for all relatives of those killed in the Ballymurphy shootings.

General Sir Geoffrey Howlett, 89, was giving evidence at the Ballymurphy Inquest.

It is examining the deaths of 10 people in west Belfast in August 1971.

The deaths followed three days of gunfire in Ballymurphy following the introduction of internment.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
General Howlett described the first day of interment in 1971 as “the busiest day of my life” and said of those shot in Ballymurphy that “most if not all were not IRA”.

Addressing the families
He expressed his sympathy after asking the coroner if he could address the families of the bereaved.

He addressed the families whilst looking across the courtroom at them in the jury area.

He said he had lost his own father, killed in Italy during the war, when he himself was aged just 13, and therefore knew something of bereavement.

General Howlett later rose to be commander-in-chief of Allied Forces in Northern Europe, retiring in 1989.

As Lt Col Howlett, he was commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, known as 2 Para.

The regiment was based in the Ballymurphy area at the time of the shootings along with the 1st Battalion (1 Para).

General Howlett was the officer who deployed B Company 2 Para to Vere Foster school and Henry Taggart Hall, both army bases on the Springfield Road.

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
Six people died as a result of shootings in the area on 9th August 1971.

They were Father Hugh Mullan, Francis Quinn, Joan Connolly, Joseph Murphy, Noel Phillips and Danny Teggart.

General Howlett recalled meeting Father Hugh Mullan some weeks before the priest was shot dead.

He said he was sure that he had indeed been administering the last rites when he was shot.

“It was quite obvious Father Mullan was not part of the IRA” he said .

Of the other victims he said: “Whether they were IRA or not at the time I don’t think we quite knew.”

Father Mullan was killed in the same incident as Francis Quinn, on waste ground near Springfield Park.

The other four people fatally shot were in the Manse area opposite the Henry Taggart army base.

‘The UVF never took us on’
General Howlett said he was based on the Springfield Road at the time of the shootings on 9th August 1971, but came to Henry Taggart Hall in the late evening to resupply B Company with ammunition.

He described being ambushed on the journey. He said he believed that 30 to 40 rounds were fired at his land rovers when they entered the base.

He claimed the firing at them was coming from the south west.

Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based at Henry Taggart Army base

He described hearing later of the death of Father Mullan, and was surprised to read in recent years that the UVF now claim to have been operating in the area.

“The UVF never took us on” General Howlett told the court. “In fact we rarely saw them”.

Several times during his evidence, he said that his memories of the time had become “muddled”, but said he had better recollection of moments when he had been fired on.

“I find my memory of places and timing very difficult” he said.

‘Internment changed Belfast’
He remembered that it was not common practice to conduct a forensic examination of soldiers’ weapons after civilian deaths.

He also said that no soldier was disciplined over the events of 9-11 August.

He told the court that his brigade commander Brigadier Kitson had disagreed with the introduction of internment, and that no one had realised what it would lead to.

He said the introduction of internment had totally changed Belfast and created a “full-blown battle”.

He added he and his military colleagues were unprepared for “such a rebellious period, with as much rioting, shooting, petrol and nail-bombing as there was.

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for the big change.”

Relatives of some of the victims attended the inquest in Belfast

General Howlett recalled meeting Father Hugh Mullan some weeks before the priest was shot dead.

He said he was sure that he had indeed been administering the last rites when he was shot.

“It was quite obvious Father Mullan was not part of the IRA” he said.

Of the other victims he said: “Whether they were IRA or not at the time I don’t think we quite knew.”

Father Mullan was killed in the same incident as Francis Quinn, on waste ground near Springfield Park.

The other four people fatally shot were in the Manse area opposite the Henry Taggart army base.

Ten people were murdered in the shootings in Ballymurphy in August 1971

A regimental history from 1971 was read out to General Howlett, stating that the Paras had inflicted severe damage on the IRA on 9 August.

“I think that was our belief at the time” he said.

He accepted that their beliefs and thoughts at the time were mistaken.

He added, that later “we realised that most if not all were not IRA”.

The retired general agreed Daniel Teggart and Noel Phillips were not “members of the IRA firing at us”.

“I accept that” he said.

He added that he was not certain that the two men had not been associated with the IRA.

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story

Related Topics
BelfastBallymurphy inquestBritish ArmyThe Troubles

 

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

Death of Aidan McAnespie has hung heavily over community for 30 years

Aidan McAnespie was shot dead in February 1988

THE shooting of Aidan McAnespie as he made his way to a football match on a Sunday afternoon in February 1988 has hung heavily over the GAA and wider nationalist community.

Before his death the 23-year-old was the focus of a campaign of harassment by security forces and the manner of his death opened a sore that has festered for more than 30 years.

His family now hope that the prosecution of the British soldier who fired the fatal shot will provide answers to questions they have been asking for decades.

They have always rejected army claims that the Aughnacloy man was struck in the back by a ricochet bullet.

At his funeral, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich was scathing in his criticism.

The anger felt by nationalists was compounded when a manslaughter charge against Grenadier Guardsman David Jonathan Holden was dropped in September 1988 and he was allowed to return to the British army.

Earlier this year former GAA director general Páraic Duffy wrote to the Irish government asking it to release the Crowley Report, which was compiled by then Garda deputy commissioner Eugene Crowley after the shooting.

The results of the investigation were received by then justice minister Gerry Collins in April 1988, but have never been published.

It also emerged this year that the north’s state pathologist has confirmed that a section of the Tyrone man’s rib cage was removed and later “disposed of”.

Archbishop Eamon Martin appealed to Secretary of State Karen Bradley to help locate the missing body part.

The continuing campaign for truth has taken its toll on the McAnespie family.

Speaking yesterday, Aidan’s brother Vincent paid tribute to his sister Eilish McCabe who died in 2008.

“My sister fought the campaign for nearly 20 years, she fought tirelessly for it,” he said.

“It actually wore Eilish down and it ended up she passed away after a 20-year campaign.

“But it was Eilish that got the HET (Historical Enquiries Team) on board at that early stage.

“And in fairness the HET helped to lead to this result.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the oigional story.