A shocking exposition as Ballymurphy massacre inquest advances

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An outpouring of emotion at the broadcast of a new documentary has inspired hope that justice is finally within reach for the victims of an infamous British Army killing spree.

Supporters walked from Belfast City Hall to the Belfast High Court on Monday in a show of encouragement and solidarity for the families of the eleven people who were killed as they attended a preliminary hearing for a new inquest into the Ballymurphy massacre.

They were given a detailed timetable for the new inquest, which will get underway on November 12th.

The shootings, which took place in the Ballymurphy estate in west Belfast between August 9th and 11th, 1971, were carried out by the British army as they sought to take control of republican areas in the wake of the introduction of internment without trial.

A Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight were among those killed during three days of gunfire by the Parachute Regiment. Another man died of a heart attack following a violent confrontation with the troops in the west Belfast estate.

The new date for the inquest was issued by Presiding Coroner Siobhan Keegan, and comes after years of preliminary inquiries. A long campaign for a public inquiry was refused by the British government in 2011.

The Coroner’s Office is currently examining a database of the names of almost 5,000 former British soldiers it received from the Ministry of Defence just two weeks ago. It had been attempting to trace former soldiers who may have been at Ballymurphy during the shootings to call as witnesses to the inquest.

Around 100 supporters gathered outside Belfast High Court on Monday in solidarity with the families before the hearing. Speaking outside court Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly died in the shootings, said they are determined to get the truth from the inquest.

“This is a very very big day for us, we have struggled hard for this for the last 20 years,” she said.

“At the end of the day, our loved ones were murdered, cold blooded murder and they have to admit it. Those soldiers are no different to anyone else, they have to answer for it.”

Last Saturday, September 8, there was a huge online reaction to the broadcast of a documentary on the subject by award-winning film maker Callum Macrea, which was screened on Channel 4 at the weekend.

The documentary, which is a shorter version of his full-length film ‘The Ballymurphy Precedent’, presents a reconstruction and forensic examination of the grisly murders. It contains personal and heart-rending accounts of the events from the relatives of those shot dead.

At the preliminary hearing, Justice Keegan told the victims’ families that “a new page has been turned” after decades of struggle. While the inquest begins in November, the military witnesses are still not expected to be called until January at the earliest.

The court has also heard criticism of the British Ministry of Defence, with the coroner stating she “couldn’t understand why information could not be provided sooner” and that the nature of the information coming from the MoD was “not acceptable”.

John Teggart, whose father Daniel was shot 14 times, believes the Ministry of Defence decision to hand over the information had again been deliberately delayed.

“The MoD has put this forward to swamp the coroner with information that she is duty bound to look at,” he said.

“The families are devastated, they didn’t need that and don’t need this.”

Justice Keegan has promised to challenge any further prevarication by the British military. Following the preliminary hearing, the families thanked the judge and applauded as she left the courtroom.

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