What was the Ballymurphy massacre and who are the 10 who died?

Coronor to deliver findings into 1971 atrocity by British army in west Belfast

 

Ten civilians were shot and fatally wounded by soldiers in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast between August 9th-11th, 1971 in what became known as the Ballymurphy massacre.

They included the parish priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, who was waving a white cloth as he went to help a wounded man, and Joan Connolly, a mother of eight who was shot as she went to the aid of a fatally-injured 19-year-old, Noel Philips. An 11th victim, Pat McCarthy, died of a heart attack and is not the subject of the inquest into the deaths whose findings will be announced on Tuesday.

Their deaths took place amid heightened levels of violence following the introduction of internment without trial on the morning of August 9th that year.

More than 340 people from Catholic and nationalist backgrounds were arrested, prompting serious violence and 20 deaths on August 9th and 10th alone.

The aim of the unionist government at Stormont was to restore order by striking a decisive blow against the IRA, but the intelligence behind the operation was seriously flawed and many of those arrested had no connection to the paramilitary organisation.

The violence was so severe that many fled across the Border, and the Irish government set up five camps to accommodate refugees.

At the time, the British army claimed they had been shooting at terrorists in Ballymurphy, and the dead were either gunmen or had been caught in the crossfire.

Most, if not all, of the 10 victims are believed to have been shot by members of the Parachute Regiment, and it has been claimed that if their actions had been investigated at the time, the killing of 14 civilians in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972 could have been prevented.

There have been claims that the UVF, the loyalist paramilitary group, may have fired at some of the victims.

Victims’ families

In 2011, following a campaign by the victims’ families, the North’s attorney general granted a request for fresh inquests into the 10 deaths that occurred following shooting on August 9th-11th.

These were the deaths of Francis Quinn, Fr Hugh Mullan, Noel Phillips, Joan Connolly and Daniel (Danny) Teggart on August 9th, and the subsequent death of Joseph Murphy (shot on August 9th) on August 22nd, as well as the deaths of Edward Doherty on August 10th, John Laverty on August 11th and the deaths of Joseph Corr on August 27th and John James McKerr on August 20th, both men were shot on August 11th.

The scope of the inquests focussed on understanding the events that occurred in Ballymurphy in August 1971 in regards to matters relating to each of those who died. The inquests opened in November 2018 and concluded in March 2020 after hearing more than 100 days of evidence.

John Teggart, whose father Danny was one of the victims, said he had grown up “searching for answers of why my daddy was murdered. Families have worked very hard to get to this stage when we will see the results of the many years of campaigning for truth.

“We have confidence that the coroner’s findings will vindicate our loved one’s innocence,” he said.

The coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan will deliver her findings in Belfast on Tuesday.

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