Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: 'Long battles' between Army and gunmen

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

An inquest into the deaths of 10 people in west Belfast in 1971 has heard evidence of prolonged gun battles between soldiers and gunmen.

The inquest is examining the fatal shootings in Ballymurphy over three days in August that year.

The evidence on Monday was first given by soldiers almost 50 years ago.

It consists of statements given during the original investigations into the shootings and some depositions to the original inquests in 1972.

The soldiers described shooting at and hitting several gunmen with various weapons.

Ten people were fatally shot - including six on one day - in the Ballymurphy area after the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.

'Many shots fired'

On 9 August 1971, Frank Quinn and Father Hugh Mullan were shot and killed on waste ground near Springfield Park.

Four people were fatally shot nearby on waste ground opposite the Henry Taggart Army Base.

They were Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Joseph Murphy and Daniel Teggart.

The inquest has heard that soldiers of the Parachute Regiment and Queen's Regiment fired many shots that day.

Image caption The shootings occurred amid disturbances sparked by the introduction of internment

Although the Ministry of Defence and Northern Ireland's judicial authorities did know their names in 1972, that information has since been lost.

As a result, most of these soldiers have not been traced or are not available - some have since died.

Their original evidence was read to the court instead, as statements by Soldier A, Soldier B, Soldier C and so on.

'Identifiable gunmen'

Most of the former soldiers testifying to the court in recent months have not agreed that they were the soldiers who made these statements in 1971 and 1972.

The soldiers told of heavy gunfire directed at them in several areas including the Vere Foster School, the Henry Taggart Hall and their positions on Springmartin Road.

In many cases they described returning fire with their self-loading rifles, sub machine guns and pistols.

They said those who fired were from both the 2 Para and 2 Queen's.

They also said they fired at identifiable gunmen and the muzzle flashes from their weapons.

Although the soldiers believed most of the gunmen firing were from the Provisional IRA, one soldier described firing at a loyalist gunman.

The inquest continues.

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