Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Wounded man feels responsible for deaths

Bobby Clarke
Image caption Bobby Clarke arriving at the Ballymurphy Inquest

A man has told the Ballymurphy Inquest he holds himself responsible for the deaths of two other men who tried to help him.

Bobby Clarke was shot and wounded on 9 August 1971 as he was helping families with children leave their homes in Springfield Park.

The area had come under attack from crowds in the nearby Springmartin area and houses had been damaged.

Later, heavy gunfire broke out.

Mr Clarke was hit whilst crossing waste ground between his home and nearby Moyard Park.

He explained that he had taken a child to safety in a nearby street and was on his way back to his own area.

Although he survived the shooting, two of the men who went to his aid were shot and killed.

One was 38-year-old Father Hugh Mullan who had been attempting to help Mr Clarke and give him the last rites.

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

The other was 19-year-old Francis Quinn who had run out to Mr Clarke along with others.

Their deaths are the current focus of the Ballymurphy Inquest which is examining 10 deaths in the wider area over three days.

Bobby Clarke told the inquest: "I have 47 years of living with this.

"I hold myself responsible for two people losing their lives."

Mr Clarke said he was shot in the back at waist height.

He was hit on the side, and the bullet exited across his spine.

Standing in the dock, the 85-year-old demonstrated his injury to the court.

"You can put your finger in the groove across my back and the spine," he said.

He described telling Father Mullan he was not going to die but the priest had anointed him anyway "to give him strength".

Image caption Fr Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn were shot behind Springfield Park

With his step-brother Gerald, Mr Clarke waited until dark and managed to slip away to safety, and receive medical treatment.

He recalled showing where he had been shot to some others a week or two later, and noticing that the army were photographing them from a distance.

Later he spoke to a paratrooper in his street who couldn't believe he'd survived a shot from an SLR rifle, such as British soldiers used.

Mr Clarke says the soldier told him that the Paras had not shot Father Mullan, but said soldiers from a different regiment had.

The soldier said to Mr Clarke that he wanted the people of Ballymurphy to know that.

Mr Clarke also told the court of his regret about what had happened to his street that night, on the day internment had been introduced.

Many of the houses were looted and destroyed in the following days, and their owners never lived there again.

"Springfield Park was a blueprint for Northern Ireland, with Protestants and Catholics living in harmony with each other." said Bobby Clarke.

"One night destroyed it."

The inquest has heard several accounts of soldiers and others who may have been gunmen, firing in the area.

Some of the shots have been described as gunshots, others as high velocity rounds.

Another witness Francis Corr told the inquest on Monday that he "can't live with the pain" of witnessing the deaths of Father Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn.

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

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