By Dan Glazebrook
Internment - indefinite imprisonment without trial - was reintroduced into the North of Ireland on August 9 1971 at 4am. Three hundred and forty people were dragged out of their houses across the Greater Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, many of whom would not be released for years.
Hundreds of homes were wrecked in the process and the entire community was effectively terrorised by the British army.
Later that day, as the full horror of what had just taken place began to sink in, loyalists from the neighbouring Springmartin estate began to form into a crowd to taunt their nationalist neighbours across the road in Springfield Park, shouting slogans such as “Where’s your daddy?”
John Teggart, the son of Belfast local Danny Teggart, picks up the story. “The crowd in Springmartin, as the night went on, grew to maybe 400. They had been stoning the houses that back onto Springfield Park and a lot of anxiety was building up,” he explains.
“At the top end, most of the houses were getting wrecked and stoned, so people had moved out down to the lower end of the park. A man named Bobby Clarke suggested moving out of the area altogether and started to evacuate the youngest first. He went out on his own across the field with an 18-month-old baby and brought her over to Moyard Park. As he was returning a soldier from the Parachute Regiment shot him in the back.
“Friar Hugh Mullen then phoned the army and told them there was a wounded man on the field and asked their soldiers to stop shooting. He then left the house and, waving a white cloth, went out onto the field to issue the last rites to Bobby. Bobby said he wasn’t dying, so Friar Mullen went back towards his house to phone the ambulance, still waving the white cloth. That was when he was shot.
“A young man named Frank Quinn then ran onto the field to help and met a barrage of bullets. He did a heroic act helping his neighbours and he was shot in the back of the head.
“At the same time as this was going on, my daddy and several other people were down the road near the army barracks.
“All of a sudden the paratroopers came out of the main gates of the barracks and started firing at anybody, anybody at all. A young man called Noel Philips was wounded, fell and screamed out. A woman named Mrs Connolly went to help but when she got to him she was shot in the face. The whole left-hand side of her face was taken off with the force of the bullet.
“My daddy was wounded in the leg initially according to eyewitness accounts. He was then shot 14 times whilst he lay out in the open, from a distance of less than 50 yards. They also shot an 11-year-old boy in the groin.
“The soldiers then came out of the barracks in a Saracen (armoured truck) and two soldiers got out, one with an SLR, one with a handgun. The one with the handgun walked up to Noel Philips, who was lying on the field wounded, and executed him with a bullet behind each ear.
“I can say these things with confidence because we have seen the autopsy and there was a 9mm bullet in him from a Browning pistol. This is from experts. And our eyewitness accounts back this up.
“Then there was Joan Connolly. One of the soldiers went round the side of the house and claimed later that he found a woman who was obviously dead. It was later found out that she hadn’t been shot once, but four times - in the belly, in the shoulder and the thigh, as well as in the face.
“The other soldier grabbed a man called Gerald Russell from where he was injured behind a pillar and just started shooting him at point-blank range with the rifle. He was shot four times. Then they started piling the bodies into the Saracen, both dead and wounded.
“Joseph Murphy, who had been shot in the leg, was taken in and repeatedly beaten. He died a week later. Because the injuries he received during the beating were so bad, he couldn’t be operated on. He died from gangrene.
“The whole of his body was completely black from where he was bruised and he told his wife on his death bed that they shot rubber bullets into his wound as well.
“Davy Callaghan, an ex-navy man, was also taken out of the Saracen. There was a gauntlet of paratroopers waiting for him. He was taken out and held on the ground whilst they took it in turns to kick him severely between his legs. He ended up in hospital with a cage round his lower body.
“Gerald Russell was taken into a room, where he was beaten repeatedly and hit with rifle butts. They actually put the rifle muzzle into one of his wounds and picked him up with it. They then jumped off the bed repeatedly onto him. This was a man wounded four times. He said while he was there, there was a naked man, thrown onto the floor beside him. He says this man was obviously dead or dying. We believe it was Danny Teggart, my daddy. He said what they did to him, bouncing off the beds, they did to my daddy as well. The dead and the wounded were both beaten.
“Six people in the space of around half an hour or an hour were murdered by the paratroopers.”
In the two days that followed, another five were killed or were later to die from their wounds - four after being shot and one from a massive heart attack after being subjected to a mock execution.
None of the deaths was ever properly investigated. Military police interviewed their colleagues in the days that followed and those statements were taken at face value by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Those killed were all said to be gunmen.
“From their interviews there are total discrepancies,” says Teggart. “They said that Mrs Connolly” - a 45-year-old mother of eight - “was a superwoman, that after dropping her gun she jumped over their heads with a submachine gun and starting firing again. They said she used at least two firearms to shoot them.”
In a pattern starting to become depressingly familiar, those reports were then reported as fact in the media. Nor has the official story of events been changed to this day. “The only way it’s going to change is through the likes of what we’re doing with the campaign.
“Our goal is an independent international investigation, independent of the state. The evidence is there that this was murder, this was a war crime. There were 14 people killed less than six months later in Bloody Sunday by the same soldiers, the same regiment - 1 Para. If Ballymurphy had been dealt with, Bloody Sunday could never have happened.”
The campaign has made progress in recent months and now has the full support of both nationalist parties as well as the foreign minister of the Dail. They are also due to meet the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland next month. But perhaps most importantly, the campaign has received important new evidence from the Catholic church.
“They came up with some archives that hadn’t been seen before - including a report and witness statements,” says Teggart. “One of those reports says that you could indict the paratroopers in Springmartin for shooting dead Frank Quinn.”
The Saville inquiry has also boosted the families’ confidence and actually recommended that the Ballymurphy killings be investigated.
“You have to remember that Bloody Sunday wasn’t an isolated incident. They had already killed 11 people in Ballymurphy before going on to kill 14 in Derry. They then went on to kill five people - three teenagers, the father of the boy shot in the field the previous year and another Catholic priest. This was in May, less than a year later, in the same area just yards from where John McKerr was murdered near the church.
“You would think that every murder should be investigated. But if your loved ones are murdered by the state it’s an uphill struggle. You have to almost prove what happened before you even get any investigation, and that’s the struggle we’re involved in at the moment.”
Join the Ballymurphy families’ campaign for justice at www.ballymurphymassacre.com