Families hope Ballymurphy massacre victims’ names will be cleared Tuesday

Inquest findings to be released May 11th, 50 years after 10 civilians were killed in Belfast

Joan Connolly, a mother of eight, was shot dead in the Ballymurphy massacre in 1971.

Joan Connolly, a mother of eight, was shot dead in the Ballymurphy massacre in 1971.

 

A woman whose mother was shot dead during the Ballymurphy massacre in Belfast 50 years ago is praying her name will finally be cleared on Tuesday.

Mother-of-eight Joan Connolly (44) was among 10 civilians killed after the British army moved into the area in the days immediately following the introduction of internment without trial on August 9th, 1971.

The findings of a fresh inquest ordered in 2011 by the North’s attorney general after a campaign for justice by the families of victims are to to be delivered by coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan on Tuesday.

Briege Voyle, a daughter of Ms Connolly, said the pain of losing her mother was made even harder by misinformation being circulated that she had been a gunwoman.

“We grew up as a family afraid to tell people... I used to just say my mother was killed in an accident because I thought they would probably say ‘oh that’s terrible’, then walk away and say ‘aye, she said her ma was innocent but she wasn’t a bit innocent’,” she said.

“It’s been a long hard slog for all of us ... but the only thing that has kept us going is the fact that we need to clear our mummy’s name.

“We don’t want our great grandchildren reading a history book that says my mummy was a gunwoman, that a priest was a gunman and all those innocent people.

“I hope their names are cleared. I pray hard every day that is what will come out on Tuesday.”

Most, if not all, of the victims are believed to have been shot by the British army’s Parachute Regiment, who went on to carry out the Bloody Sunday atrocity in Derry the following year.

Original inquests

Original inquests in 1972 into the Ballymurphy killings returned an open verdict in each case.

At the time, the British army claimed the victims had either been gunmen, or had been killed in crossfire during a gun battle.

The families of those killed have always contended they were innocent, unarmed civilians, who were shot by soldiers without justification.

The newly-ordered inquests opened at Belfast Coroner’s Court in November 2018 before concluding in March 2020.

During more than 100 days of evidence, testimony was heard from eye witnesses, forensic experts, former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and more than 60 former soldiers.

The former head of the British army general Sir Mike Jackson was among those who gave evidence.

Fr Hugh Mullan
Fr Hugh Mullan

Also killed in the massacre was Catholic priest Fr Hugh Mullan (38) who had crawled to waste ground where a man had been shot to administer the last rites before he was shot himself.

Fr Mullan’s brother Patsy said the priest “was not involved in anything other than going out to help somebody”.

“He was a priest and anointed a man, as he left him to go and try and get an ambulance he was shot.” – Additional reporting: PA

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