Decision ‘blows entire case clean out of the water’

Families’ joy as inquest is ordered

By Staff Reporter

THE reopened inquests into the deaths of 10 of those who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre will “blow the entire case clean out of the water”, says the daughter of one of the victims.

Briege Voyle of the Ballymurphy Massacre Families, whose mother Joan Connolly was shot by the British army and left to die as she tried to offer help to fellow massacre victim Noel Phillips, was speaking to the Andersonstown News on Monday afternoon as the families finally received confirmation that 10 of the 11 victims of the 1971 massacre will have fresh inquests into their deaths on orders from the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC.

The application for fresh inquests was presented on behalf of the families by the former West Belfast MP, Gerry Adams, in October 2010.  The new inquests, which the families hope will begin early next year, could compel the British soldiers involved in the massacre to appear before the coroner and give evidence. The families’ solicitor, Pádraig Ó Muirigh, said that key soldiers who fired live rounds on the day of the massacre are “already aware” of the inquests and that applications will be made to the coroner asking “that these soldiers must give evidence at the inquest”.

 

Decision

John Teggart of the Ballymurphy Families, whose father Danny was shot 14 times by the Parachute Regiment, said he felt “absolutely fantastic” about the news.

“I thank the Attorney General for his decision.  It’s a big step for him as it endorses our campaign,” said John.

“It is also an acknowledgement of how the families were treated in the first inquests in 1972, which were the Belfast Widgery [the original and discredited investigation into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry conducted by Lord Chief Justice Widgery which cleared the British Parachute Regiment of wrongdoing. This was overturned in June 2010 by the publication of the Saville Report. The same battalion of the Parachute Regiment responsible for the Ballymurphy Massacre was responsible for the Bloody Sunday murders five months later].

“The inquests that took place in 1972 were tainted.  You had soldiers that were not compelled to answer questions, you had evidence that was passed over in a brown envelope and you had witnesses disrespected in the witness box. They just took the soldiers’ own stories and never bothered going out looking for witnesses.

 

Witnesses

“In all of our papers [the original inquest papers for each of the victims] it states that that there were no witnesses, yet when you look at the rest of the inquest papers there are about six or seven soldiers telling you what they saw and what they did and what they didn’t do. There were witnesses there at the time, hundreds of them. They just refused to look for them.”

Briege Voyle said although she felt it was “fantastic” that the inquests had been granted, she felt it was a “disgrace that it took 40 years for original inquest evidence to be re-looked at again”.

“It should be remembered that all the evidence that we gave the Attorney General last year came from us. We went out, got that evidence with no help from anyone, just ordinary family members,” said Briege.

“We went everywhere. We went door to door, we went to PRONI [Public Records Office Northern Ireland]. Anywhere in Belfast that we thought we had a witness we went to them.  It was us that put the facts together and put the papers together but it is a disgrace in this day and age that ordinary family members have to do that. But we’re proud of ourselves today because we have got this for our families and we did it ourselves.The British government should be ashamed of themselves that it was left to us to do what needs to be done.

Briege said that, for her, the most important thing about the upcoming inquests will be the chance to “challenge the ballistics and forensics reports from the massacre and have them re-examined”.

“It’s the main thing we needed to do but we just didn’t have the money to get it done,” said Briege.

“Once you get the forensics and ballistics along with the evidence we have to back it up, that’s going to blow the entire thing clean out of the water.”

Janet Connolly, whose father Joseph Murphy was shot along side Joan Connolly and Danny Teggart on the Manse, said she felt the Attorney General made “the right decision”.

“It gives the family the chance, for the first time, to see the soldiers responsible in court,” she said.

“At the original inquest their [the soldiers’] statements were read out, yet the families didn’t even have a chance to put their side across. This is going to give us the chance to examine these soldiers who killed our loved ones and challenge the inconsistencies in their statements and produce all our evidence.”

Patsy Mullan, brother of Corpus Christi Parish Priest Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot and killed while tending to the wounded in Springfield Park, said the inquest decision was “a long time coming”.

“But it’s come eventually and I’m glad that it’s happened now. I’ve had a long wait for it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the families have vowed to redouble their efforts to bring about an inquest into the death of Ballymurphy youth worker Paddy McCarthy, who was not included in the original inquests as he died from a heart attack after being shot at and subjected to a mock execution by the Paratroopers.

“Evidence wasn’t taken at the time that he was brutalised and harassed by the Paratroopers,” said John.

“New evidence has also come through that they shot over his head. They carried out a mock execution on him that caused his heart attack. They delayed getting medical aid for him and locals were prevented from getting him medical aid.”

Despite the inquests green light, the families remain steadfast in their aim of  achieving an independent international inquiry into the Ballymurphy Massacre.

“The families welcome the Attorney General’s decision and think it is a brave decision for him to reopen all the inquests, but this is not an end goal for us,” said John.

 

Investigation

“Our end goal is an independent international investigation surrounding all the circumstances of what happened in Ballymurphy in 1971 and for the British government to acknowledge the innocence of all the victims and apologise for what happened.”

Pádraig Ó Muirigh, solicitor for the Ballymurphy Families, warned that there may be attempts to stall the inquest.

“There is the potential that the British soldiers involved will have to make representations to the inquest and could be preparing sick notes,” he said.

“I think it is clear that there will be an attempt to delay this inquest and evade giving evidence by British soldiers, but the families are aware of that.  But this is the first time that the facts of the Ballymurphy Massacre will be heard publicly in open court, so I think it’s a positive development.”

Mr Ó Muirigh said he hoped the inquest hearings would begin in the next few months.

“We will be hoping to have a privy hearing as soon as possible, perhaps in the New Year,” he said.

“We don’t have a date yet as it’s still in the very early stages, but we need to push this on without delay.”

 

 

Pressure for public inquiry will not ease

Fresh inquests into the Ballymurphy Massacre are a big step forward in the campaign for truth

A welcome sign

Dublin to ‘assist’ and ‘support’ the victims’ families

Timeline  of the  Ballymurphy Massacre between  August  9 and 11  1971

Please follow and like us:

Tags: , ,