Ballymurphy Inquest hears preliminary evidence

By Will Leitch

Image caption,
Nine men and a woman were killed in Ballymurphy in August 1971

An inquest has heard preliminary evidence about two of 10 shootings over three days in August 1971.

Referred to by many as the Ballymurphy Massacre, nine men and a woman were killed.

An inquest into the deaths began last week.

Members of the Parachute Regiment have always been held responsible for the civilian deaths during three days of gunfire involving soldiers in the west Belfast estate in August 1971.

However, in May the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force said one of its members was involved in the shootings and may have killed some of the victims.

The 10 people who were shot dead included a priest trying to aid one of the wounded and a mother of eight. Another man later died of heart failure.

On Monday, the court heard statements about the deaths of Frank Quinn and Fr Hugh Mullan, which were originally made at the first inquests held in 1972.

They involved the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), ambulance and medical personnel who collected and identified the remains of both men.

Funding 'disgrace'

The killings happened during an operation by the Army known as Operation Demetrius, in which paramilitary suspects were detained without trial.

At the time, the Army said those killed were either IRA gunmen, or were caught in the crossfire between soldiers and gunmen.

The families of those who died say they believe the evidence which is heard during the inquest will show their relatives were innocent, and were targeted deliberately.

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

Later, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou MacDonald spoke outside the inquest alongside the party's Northern leader, Michelle O'Neill.

They offered their support to the families of the Ballymurphy victims and repeated their calls on the British government to release funding for Legacy investigations.

Image caption,
Sinn Féin leaders stood with Ballymurphy families outside Laganside Courts

Mary Lou MacDonald said: "We regard it as a disgrace that Mrs May and her government continue to withhold funding for legacy inquests.

"No leader, nobody who claims any regard for the upholding of the law or value of democracy could stand over such a situation, where family are left for decades without the right of an inquest," she added.