Ballymurphy Inquest: 'World knows what we fought for wasn't in vain'

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The families of 10 people killed in Ballymurphy in west Belfast 50 years ago have welcomed an inquest's findings that they were "entirely innocent".

The victims were killed in the wake of an Army operation in which paramilitary suspects were detained without trial.

A coroner ruled nine of the victims were shot by the Army. It is not clear who shot the tenth.

Their families have described their relief at their loved ones being cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mrs Justice Keegan said she wanted to acknowledge the families of the victims and said it must be a difficult occasion of remembrance.

Patsy Mullan, brother of Fr Hugh Mullan

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Patsy Mullan's brother Fr Hugh Mullan was shot on the night of 9 August 1971.

The 38-year-old priest, who was from Portaferry in County Down, served a year in the Merchant Navy before serving in parishes in Belfast, County Antrim and County Down before coming to Ballymurphy.

Mr Mullan said his brother had no concern for his own safety when he attended to a wounded man who was calling for help.

"It has been a disaster for my family that my brother died the way he did and the tragic events that unfolded around him and the people of Ballymurphy as he carried out his priestly vocation," he said.

He said his brother was a man who dedicated his life to helping the community and that he was sorry his parents and sister were not alive to hear the inquest's findings.

"Their son and our brother was killed by the British Army and they lied about it to cover up the injustice," he said.

"I know my brother would wish for continued peace and prosperity in Ballymurphy and Northern Ireland, Ballymurphy will always have a special place in our hearts."

Pat Quinn, brother of Frank Quinn

Pat Quinn, the brother of Frank Quinn, said it was a great day for the families, "but it's also a bittersweet day"

"Today I think of my dear brother Frank, whose young life was taken by British paratroopers," he said.

"He gave his life helping others and, as one of our witnesses said, he was very brave.

"But mostly today I think of my poor mother and father, Tommy and Grace, who never ever got over Frank's death - their hearts were broken.

"Today was the first time I've cried in a long time because me and my brother, we were the ones who started doing this for our family, we had to steel ourselves up to face anything.

"It was like a rock on my chest but I think of my poor mother and father and Frank himself, he must be smiling now down at us."

Irene Leckey, daughter of Joan Connolly

image captionJoan Connolly's great-grandson Fearghus Murray and daughter Irene Leckey

Joan Connolly, a 44-year-old mother-of-eight, was the only woman killed in Ballymurphy.

Her daughter, Irene Leckey, said she was shocked by the inquest's findings.

"I wasn't aware the coroner would declare them innocent so when she said my mummy was innocent it was amazing, it was just perfect," she said.

She said her campaign for justice had been worth it over the years after "being accused of trying to rewrite history".

"That was never our intention. From the offset my mummy was declared a gunwoman and we knew my she wasn't, so to be in that court today and for the judge to state my mummy was an innocent woman, with Mrs Justice Keegan's help we corrected history.

"The history books state she was a gunwoman and today... she's been cleared and I hope maybe now she can rest now in peace."

Janet Donnelly, daughter of Joseph Murphy

Joseph Murphy, 42, was a father-of-12, whose father had served in the Army.

He was shot in the leg on 9 August 1971 and taken to hospital where he died 13 days later, on his twin sons' 16th birthday.

His daughter Janet Donnelly welcomed the finding that her father was innocent.

"For 50 years my family and I have lived with the knowledge my father was an innocent civilian murdered by British paratroopers, but the official version that took place was that our loved ones were gunmen, a gunwoman and even our priest was a gunman," she said.

Ms Donnelly said when her father was shot he was taken to the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall where he was beaten and "shot again into his open wound".

She said a soldier who tried to help her father while he was there was "hit with the butt of a rifle".

"I would like to thank this solder and his family for this and I would also like to thank all civilian witness who have lived through this harrowing inquest especially all those who have passed away."

Kevin Phillips, brother of Noel Phillips

image copyrightPhillips family
image captionNoel Phillips was shot on 9 August 1971

A statement read on behalf of Kevin Phillips, whose brother Noel Phillips was among the victims, said his death "devastated" his family and his mother "never recovered".

"She died a broken woman," he added.

Mr Phillips said when trouble broke out on 9 August 1971 his brother, "being a youth and inquisitive" went to see what was going on.

A ballistics expert told the inquest that Noel Phillips, a 19-year-old window cleaner, was shot three to four times, at least twice by 9mm bullets.

One of these was recovered from his body.

"My family believe Noel was brutally executed and it has taken us 50 years to prove this," Mr Phillips said.

John Teggart, son of Daniel Teggart

media captionJohn Teggart, son of victim Daniel Teggart

John Teggart's father was 44 when he was shot near the Henry Taggart army base near Springfield Park.

He said any amnesty for soldiers who had served in Northern Ireland would deny families like his the "opportunity for justice".

He added: "I want to speak directly to the people of Britain at this moment. Can you imagine what would happen if the British soldiers murdered 10 unarmed civilians on the streets of London, Liverpool or Birmingham?

"What would you expect, an investigation? Would you expect justice? Or would you be happy for them to get an amnesty?"

He added: "No-one should be above the law. We will not accept an amnesty for these murders."

Eileen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr

image captionEileen Corr, centre, was joined by family as the findings of the inquest were announced

Eileen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr, said her family was "delighted" with the rulings and that the "world knows that they are innocent".

Mr Corr, who was 43, was shot at the top of the Whiterock Road.

"We sort of knew and hoped and prayed but we still didn't want to get hopes that high you'd get knocked down.

She said there was still a lot of information that was needed because "as much as the inquest helped, it raised a lot more questions than answers."

"We need some answers as to actually who shot my daddy and why were they given orders to shoot people."

"My daddy was a hard-working man who loved his wife and kids and worked very hard to give us everything we wanted," she added.

Kathleen McCarry, sister of Edward Doherty

Kathleen McCarry's brother Edward Doherty, 31, was shot at the corner of Brittons Parade and Whiterock Road.

Mr Doherty had been a soldier with the Royal Engineers and later joined the Territorial Army.

She said she was elated with the findings after "Eddie was just taken from us so cruelly".

"My mum died of a broken heart and for seven years we watched her slowly deteriorating and my father took it very bad," she said.

"I can honestly say they'll be jubilant in heaven.

"Now the world knows what we fought for wasn't in vain. The last year and three to four months were draining but I's been worth it.

Anne Ferguson, daughter of John McKerr

Anne Ferguson, the daughter of former soldier John McKerr, said it was "a relief to get vindication" after 50 years.

"I'm sorry that my three brothers and my sister and my mother aren't here to see this, they were fighting as hard as we were.

"We all owe a debt of gratitude to all of the families of Ballymurphy that helped get us to this stage, because we didn't know for years what had happened.

She said she thought initially it was only her father who had been killed and later found out that other families had lost their loved ones as well.

"Just by association of where my father was killed it was automatic that he was a gunman or he was in the IRA but it's just wonderful to get it cleared,

"It was his innocence we set out to prove and that's what we've done."

Carmel Quinn, sister of John Laverty

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image captionCarmel Quinn, whose brother John Laverty was shot, with her daughter Mary Kate Quinn

Carmel Quinn, sister of John Laverty, said "no one cared" about her brother's death.

"There was no investigation, because no-one cared, we have lived with unanswered questions for 50 years because no-one cared," she said.

"No one cared because our John was just another 20-year-old Catholic from Ballymurphy.

"But our community cared - they have supported us as families and our campaign for truth all these years - and our family cared.

"He was my big brother and we would never give up fighting for him."

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