Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Former soldier accused of fabricating story

The Ballymurphy victims
Image caption An inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people killed in shootings at Ballymurphy in August 1971

A former soldier has denied lying during his evidence to the Ballymurphy Inquest.

M68, who has been granted anonymity, was speaking by video link on Tuesday.

He was 20 and a private in 2nd Platoon, B Company, 3rd Batallion the Queen's Regiment. He was on Belfast's Springmartin Road on the first day of internment on 9 August 1971.

Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Frank Quinn, 19, were shot there, that day.

A barrister for the Mullan and Quinn families, Karen Quinlivan QC, said much of M68's evidence was "a complete and utter fabrication".

She referred to other evidence and Queen's and Parachute Regimental logs which paint a different picture.

There was also a note from the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) stating M68 had described paratroopers arriving and engaging gunmen in nearby flats.

M68 was challenged for now saying that he did not see members of the Parachute Regiment in the Springmartin area, and that the HET note was incorrect.

Ms Quinlivan also suggested that M68 had lied to the inquest.

"You've been anxious to distance yourself from the conduct of the Parachute Regiment whom you saw firing shots in the area." she said.

"That is incorrect" he replied.

Image copyright Public
Image caption The shootings occurred amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland

He told the inquest that none of his unit fired and that he never discharged his weapon in Northern Ireland.

"I have nothing to hide and I did not fire any live rounds." he said.

"You may not have fired live rounds but you certainly saw people firing live rounds," Ms Quinlivan said.

"Again, I did not." said M68.

M68 claimed his unit was under sporadic gunfire in Springmartin from "the Catholic side" for many hours.

He said soldiers did not fire back at any time.

He said this was because they were unable to see many gunmen and that women and children were being used as shields.

M68 said a Queen's Regiment sniper and a radio operator were sent to a rooftop to locate whoever was shooting.

He said his patrol unit was sent to investigate a sighting of two gunmen. However, on the way through Springfield Park, in another location, they found a resident, Harry McAnulty, holding a shotgun.

M68 said he arrested and disarmed him, later handing him over to the RUC.

He said as they returned to Springmartin, he prevented a Protestant crowd from taking Mr McAnulty and lynching him.

Mr McAnulty was later released.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Two of the victims were shot close to Springfield Park

M68 also claimed that he refused to put a hood over suspects' heads during internment arrests in August 1971.

He said when he was involved in early internment arrests that day, the instructions had been to tie or handcuff the suspects' hands and hood them, but he had never done this.

He accepted that other soldiers had done so and was challenged with making his claim simply to distance himself from practices now widely regarded as unacceptable and inhumane.

"If I had hooded anyone I would have told you" he told the court.

The inquest continues

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