The Ballymurphy Massacre

This Tuesday marked exactly 40 years since the beginning of one of the most horrifying periods in the history of West Belfast.

The Ballymurphy Massacre took place during the opening days of internment when the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Brian Falkner, gave the green light for state forces to rip thousands of men, women and children from their homes and detain them indefinitely without trial.

The ensuing chaos caused riots and civil unrest in nationalist areas across the North, including dozens of deaths. However, the shockwaves felt at the 11 deaths at the hands of the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy over August 9-11 are still felt to this day. 57 children were left without a parent as a result of the massacre. The families of those killed are still searching for the truth of what happened to their loved ones and have stepped up their campaign to clear the names of the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters incorrectly and maliciously branded by the authorities and the media as IRA gunmen/women deserving of death.

Patsy McMullan, the brother of Fr Hugh Mullan who was killed tending to a wounded man in the Springhill Park area, told the Andersonstown News this week that he and his family were due to visit their brother in Ballymurphy that day.

“He phoned down to us to tell us not to come up as there was going to be serious trouble. So we stayed where we were,” said his Patsy.

“We listened to the news throughout the day and it seemed quiet enough. But as the night went on, by 11pm I heard on RTE news that a priest was shot in Ballymurphy. I knew that out of anybody, Hugh would be the type to do what he is supposed to have done (go out and tend to the injured). That’s his nature, he does that type of thing.”

The brothers of 19-year-old Frank Quinn, who was shot dead beside Fr Mullan, spoke about how their parents were forced to leave their Stranmillis home after their Protestant neighbours turned against them.

“Our neighbours (in Stranmillis) had sent us to a Coventry of sorts because the media said the people who died that night were gunmen and gunwomen,” said Pat Quinn.

“I would have ran errands for these people and they knew me on first name terms, yet now there was coldness from them towards us.”

Noel Phillips was the first of the four people to die during the massacre at ‘the Manse’, where Paratroopers opened fire indiscriminately on a group of people searching for their loved ones. Whilst injured on the grass, a solider executed Noel by shooting him twice in the head.

“We were all playing cards outside the door of our house at Whitecliff Parade when we heard the Prods were invading Springfield Park,” remembers Noel’s oldest brother Rab.

“So people started to scatter all over the place. That was the last I saw of him alive. After 11pm that night I heard that someone was shot dead and we worked out that it was our Noel.”

Danny Teggart was shot in the leg during the massacre on the Manse. The Paras would then shot the father-of-13 children 14 times to make sure he was dead.

“Daddy had been to see my sister Alice earlier on that day,” his son John told the Andersonstown News.

“She had cut his hair for him and still has some his curls from that day. She also told him that she was pregnant and he was going to be a grandfather again. With the turmoil of what happened to my father, Alice ended up losing that child.”

Joan Connolly, the only female victim of the massacre, was left to die on the Manse after soldiers shot her in the face as she tended to the injured Noel Phillips.

She left a family of eight children behind her whose lives were torn apart by the loss of their beloved mother.

“People then heard shooting and heard her screaming that she couldn’t see, then they heard more shooting and did not hear her again. We only heard exactly what happened years later,” said her daughter, Briege Voyle.

“She had come out to Noel Phillips where he lay on the Manse after being shot, she heard him crying in pain and went to help him. She had said to me earlier on that night that those loyalists would shoot you where the army wouldn’t so she went out there (on to the Manse) because in her head she believed the army wouldn’t shoot her. When she walked out she wasn’t being a hero, she believed she’d be okay as she was a women.”

Joseph Murphy was shot on the Manse but was taken with the dead and injured to Henry Taggart barracks on the Springfield Road. His daughter Janet Donnelly spoke of the torture her father received from the Paras inside the barracks, injuries which would lead to his death two weeks later.

“He says when the soldiers came near them they kicked the bodies whether they were alive or dead,” said Janet.

“On his death bed in the Royal, my daddy told my mother that one young soldier had asked for medical intervention and a priest for the men, but another soldier hit him with the butt of a rifle and told him not to pray over a fenian bastard. Those were my daddy’s words to his wife on his death bed.”

The sister of 31-year-old father-of-four Eddie Doherty, shot dead while on his way home from checking on the safety of his family, spoke of how the army lied about her brother to cover up their actions.

“They swore his life away,” said Kathleen McCarry.

“The solider that shot him said Eddie was the guy who threw the petrol bomb at the barrier at Brittons Parade. According to another soldier’s statement, Eddie was armed with a rifle.”

John Laverty and Joseph Corr, both shot dead on the morning of August 11, were also portrayed as IRA gunmen by the authorities.

John’s sister Carmel Quinn told us that her family believes the army fabricated a story about a riot taking place that morning to cover up for the two men’s deaths.

“They had to make it look like a riot took place so they trailed young boys out of houses at the top of Dermot Hill, and they went into Ballymurphy and trailed a man of 80 out of his home,” said Carmel.

“There were 52 people pulled out of their homes that morning, arrested and brought to Girdwood (army barracks in North Belfast). Out of that 52, two of them were charged with riotous behaviour, one of whom was (John’s brother) Terry. My mummy always said they did that because that had to try and justify John being murdered.”

Elieen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr, spoke of how her father’s workmates in Shorts sent a taunting letter to the family in the aftermath of her father’s death.

“The media had portrayed him as an IRA gunman so after he died my mummy received a letter from his workmates at Shorts,” said Eileen.

“It said, ‘May your husband and his sub-human pals roast in hell.’ That was the only acknowledgement she got for his death from his workplace.”

The daughter of community worker Paddy McCarthy, a Londoner who died from a massive heart attack after Paratroopers staged a mock execution on him, speak for the first time about their father’s death in this week’s Andersonstown News special.

“I was totally unaware that there was something called the Ballymurphy Massacre,” said Jenny Asham.

“And like the Bloody Sunday situation, it’s outrageous that troops should behave in that manner. It’s even more difficult in that I’m English and that these troops are from where I come from.”

The family of Andersonstown carpenter John McKerr, shot by an army sniper as he took a break from working at Corpus Christi church, talk of how their father was not supposed to be in Ballymurphy on the day he died.

“The day he died he was supposed to go up to St Michael’s chapel in Andersonstown to work, but he decided he would come back here [Corpus Christi] because there was a funeral that day and he was going to open up and finish off a few things before the funeral came in,” said his daughter Bernie Brannigan.

“Mum said to him to be careful because of the curfew, but he said he’d be fine - if he missed the curfew he would stay with the nuns, it would be all right. And that was it.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News