Trauma for families as shootings recalled

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An eyewitness has told the Ballymurphy inquest how he heard the last words of mother-of-eight Joan Connolly after she was shot in the face.

John Maguire told the hearing into the deaths of ten people following shootings in west Belfast in August 1971 how he heard 44-year-old Mrs Connolly crying “I can’t see, I can’t see”.

Mr Maguire said he had been talking to friends on the Springfield Road on August 9 shortly before shooting began from a nearby British Army base where members of the Parachute Regiment were stationed.

Taking cover behind a pillar at the entrance to an area of waste ground, he said he watched as 44-year-old Danny Teggart was shot in the back while running.

Mr Maguire said Mr Teggart, a father-of-13, was unarmed. Describing Mrs Connolly, Mr Maguire said she cried out “I can’t see, I can’t see” after being shot, saying he believed her voice had weakened before she lost consciousness.

He said shooting continued despite his friend, Tommy Delaney, waving a white hanky on a stick.

Mr Maguire described how after a while a British armoured vehicle drove through the gates into the waste ground and a British soldier emerged and fired shots towards where he and others were hiding. He said he ran through a hole in a hedge, adding: “I though he was going to pick us off. I was very frightened.”

Another man, Tommy Morgan, was 15-years-old when he witnessed four fatal shootings while under heavy fire.

Mr Morgan told the court that he believed the shooting came from soldiers based at the Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, because of the direction from which people near him were shot.

The 62-year-old said there was heavy shooting and described how lumps of stone and plaster came out of the gate pillars as bullets struck them.

“It got really unbelievably intense,” he told the court. “It was like a storm. The bullets were non-stop.”

Mr Morgan saw a number of people fatally shot, including Noel Phillips, Danny Teggart, and Joseph Murphy. He also saw a friend called Davy Callaghan shot close to him. He also heard Joan Connolly, the only woman shot, describing her “crying, sobbing, frightened, terrified voice”.

Mr Morgan said the mother-of-eight, shouted: “Someone help me please, I’m blind, I’m shot in the face, I can’t see.”

Mr Morgan said he was “glad I didn’t see her”, adding the “voice is still with me”.

Margaret Elmore, who was 27 in 1971, told how gunfire broke out, with bullets hitting her home. She told the court how she saw Joan Connolly falling down and then saying: “Mister, I can’t see”.

Mrs Elmore lived nearby and had thumped the window at Mrs Connolly and a man who were taking cover beside her house to tell them to stay down.

Relatives of Mrs Connolly were in tears as description of her injuries and final moments were relayed to the court.

A man shot as an 11-year-old child also told the inquest how he was hit as he made a run for safety across a field. Edward Butler told the inquest how he saw an injured youth being shot dead at close range by a British soldier as he cried out in pain.

He said said he saw soldiers getting out of a Saracen and throwing inured people into the back of it.

“They lifted a young fella of about 18 or 20. The soldiers dropped him then and he was crying. One of the soldiers pulled out a gun and said ‘F--- up, you c---’ and shot him once or twice towards the chest. There was no sound from him after that.”

The inquest continues.

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