Shooting victim says he is responsible for two deaths in ‘Ballymurphy Massacre’

Bobby Clarke (85) givings evidence to inquest examining deaths of 10 in Belfast in 1971

 Bobby Clarke (right), who was  shot in the “Ballymurphy Massacre”, with Patsy Mullan,  brother of Fr Hugh Mullan, who was fatally shot while coming to  Mr Clarke’s assistance, outside Belfast Coroner’s Court on Tuesday ahead of inquest proceedings into the shootings. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Bobby Clarke (right), who was shot in the “Ballymurphy Massacre”, with Patsy Mullan, brother of Fr Hugh Mullan, who was fatally shot while coming to Mr Clarke’s assistance, outside Belfast Coroner’s Court on Tuesday ahead of inquest proceedings into the shootings. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

 

A man who survived a shooting in west Belfast in 1971 has told an inquest he holds himself responsible for the death of a priest and a young man who went to his aid.

Bobby Clarke (85), was hit by a bullet in the back near Springfield Park on August 9th that year as he tried to move a number of children out of the area.

Mr Clarke was giving evidence to the inquest that is examining the deaths of 10 people at Ballymurphy in 1971.

The sequence of events started after the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland that year on August 9th. Mass arrests sparked rioting across the region.

Over three days, from August 9th-11th, 10 people died in shootings at a number of locations in west Belfast. The events became known as the “Ballymurphy Massacre”.

Mr Clarke was shot in an area close to Springfield Park known as the field.

He had taken a baby from the area and was returning across the field to remove more people when a bullet hit him in the back.

Fr Hugh Mullan crawled over to tend to him, waving a white cloth. After finding that Mr Clarke was not seriously injured, he turned to leave and was then fatally shot, the inquest heard.

Clockwise from top left: Joseph Corr, Danny Taggart, Eddie Doherty, Fr Hugh Mullan, Frank Quinn, Paddy McCarthy, Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Philips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy, who were all gunshot victims of the Ballymurphy incidents in west Belfast in 1971. Photograph: PA
Clockwise from top left: Joseph Corr, Danny Taggart, Eddie Doherty, Fr Hugh Mullan, Frank Quinn, Paddy McCarthy, Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Philips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy, who were all gunshot victims of the Ballymurphy incidents in west Belfast in 1971. Photograph: PA

Another man, Frank Quinn (19), was shot dead as he attempted to reach Fr Mullan.

Holds himself responsible

Mr Clarke told the inquest he has had 47 years of “living this” and holds himself responsible for the deaths of the two men.

“Two people lost their lives coming to help me while I was trying to help those who could not help themselves,” he told the inquest.

He said he saw two soldiers on the roof of flats on the Springmartin Road “tracking” him with their rifles as he crossed the field, first with the child and then as he returned.

But Mr Clarke said he believes he was shot by soldiers who were at ground level on Springfield Park, and that they were members of the Parachute Regiment.

Soldiers have long been held responsible for killing the 10 people in Ballymurphy, but the accepted narrative became clouded last year when former UVF members came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.

The funeral of Fr Hugh Mullan, a curate at Corpus Christi Parish in Belfast who was killed during the “Ballymurphy Massacre”, being held in Portaferry, Co Down, Northern Ireland, in August 1971. File photograph: Terence Spencer/Life Picture Collection via Getty Images
The funeral of Fr Hugh Mullan, a curate at Corpus Christi Parish in Belfast who was killed during the “Ballymurphy Massacre”, being held in Portaferry, Co Down, Northern Ireland, in August 1971. File photograph: Terence Spencer/Life Picture Collection via Getty Images

Earlier at Tuesday’s inquest hearing, another man who had been in the field during the shootings said he saw no gunmen in the area that evening other than three men he believed were soldiers, one of whom was armed with a rifle.

‘God’s honest truth’

“No one who was on that field had any weapons, no one was a threat to anyone, and that’s the God’s honest truth,” Francis Corr told the inquest.

Mr Corr described lying on the ground and hearing bullets “thudding into the field” around him, adding that he felt the bullets were aimed at him.

When asked whether he would “cover for anyone”, such as gunmen firing at soldiers, Mr Corr replied: “No, I am here to tell the truth.”

Fresh inquests were directed into the Ballymurphy deaths following claims that the original coronial inquiries were inadequate.

They are the latest in a series of new inquests into incidents during the Troubles.

The inquest continues. – Press Association