Relatives of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre were present for an emotional debate in the Dublin parliament in which Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams vividly described being in the area on the night of the killings when internment without trial was introduced by the British government in 1971.
Thousands of British soldiers supported by the RUC police “smashed their way into hundreds of homes”, he said. He watched his own home being smashed into and male members of his family being dragged off. “The house was occupied for days by the Parachute regiment. They destroyed everything,” he said.
“They shit on beds. They urinated on wardrobes. They broke up family and religious memorabilia. They dragged away over 300 men and boys into the night, many of them later to be tortured.”
Ten people were shot dead, including a mother of eight. Mr Adams named them: Fr Hugh Mullen, Francis Quinn, Daniel Teggart, Joan Connolly, Joseph Murphy, Noel Phillips, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr and John McKerr.
An 11th man, local community worker Paddy McCarthy, died from a heart attack after a British army patrol subjected him to a mock execution.
This week’s debate stemmed from the British government’s refusal to a request in 2014 by the Ballymurphy families for a review of the events that led to the deaths of their loved ones. Following that, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, volunteered to introduce an all-party motion of support for the families.
Mr Kenny reiterated his government’s disappointment with the decision not to establish independent reviews. During the debate, he called on the authorities in the North and Britain to deal with such incidents “in a manner and a timescale that meets international human rights standards”.
The suffering of the bereaved “has been compounded by the anguish caused by the failure, to date, to establish the truth about the tragic events which occurred almost 44 years ago”.
Mr Adams said the full resources” of the 26 County state must be employed to challenge the actions of a neighbouring state in the killing of Irish citizens.
He urged the coalition to put in place a strategic approach “which sees the British government challenged on this issue at every meeting and in every international forum.
“Unless we do this, the British government will continue to refuse to give the Ballymurphy and other families what they deserve.”
He said the families had campaigned with great dignity for four decades.
“I have accompanied them to meet successive British Secretaries of State and shadow Secretaries of State. None of them did anything of consequence. We have also briefed successive Taoisigh and Ministers for Foreign Affairs. Are we also going to let them down?
“The tenacity and resolve of the families has seen them compile significant evidence which shows that all who died were killed unlawfully and in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
“They have proposed the appointment of an Independent Panel to examine all documents relating to the context, circumstances and aftermath of the deaths of their loved ones. The British Secretary of State has rejected this proposal.
“For that reason, the families are looking to the Irish government and to Oireachtas members to demand that the British government stop blocking and hiding the truth and agree to an Independent Review. This motion is an important step on the road to achieving this.
“Let no one think that voting for this is enough. As this Dail knows only too well from the British government response to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, motions on their own will not make a difference.”