Inquest begins into the ‘forgotten massacre’
Inquest begins into the ‘forgotten massacre’


The long-awaited Springhill/Westrock inquest commenced this week in Belfast.

The families of those killed in the massacre at the hands of the British Army stood shoulder to shoulder as the inquest began, almost 51 years after the shootings took place. It is the second inquest into the deaths of the families’ loved ones.

Five innocent people were shot dead in a murder spree by British Army snipers on 9 July, 1972.

The first shots were fired at passengers in two cars. Nineteen-year-old Martin Dudley was shot in the back of the head as he exited the vehicle. Other passengers were pinned down as the soldiers continued to fire at anyone who moved. Seventeen-year-old John Dougal was shot dead, and his companion Brian Pettigrew was seriously injured by a second British army sniper as they went to Dudley’s assistance.

Thirteen-year-old Margaret Gargan was shot dead in a hail of bullets fired by a third British army marksman. She had been returning home from a day spent helping out at the local community centre.

Father Noel Fitzpatrick was killed as he went to administer the Last Rites to the dead and dying. This was the second Catholic priest to be shot dead by the British army in West Belfast in just 11 months. A father of six Paddy Butler died after he was hit by the same bullet that killed Fr Fitzpatrick. Fifteen-year-old David McCaffery was shot dead as he attempted to pull Fr Fitzpatrick and Paddy Butler out of the line of fire.

The snipers continued firing for the next 90 minutes, bringing murder and mayhem to the streets of Springhill and Westrock, and unleashing terror into the homes of dozens of trapped families. One eyewitness described residents as being ‘pinned down everywhere. If there was a target, they [British snipers] shot at it; if not, they just shot into the houses.’

At the inquest the families held photographs of those who died. They were supported by the families of other British massacres as well as politicians and local members of the community where the killings took place.

Monday heard the families reading pen portraits of their loved ones to the court.

Lawyers for the British military were later accused by supporters of the families of seeking to delay and diminish the culpubility of the soldiers involved by calling for the PSNI to provide intelligence on local republicans and their actities in the era the shootings occurred.

“What MoD are seeking goes way beyond what is normal in these circumstances,” said the Relatives for Justice campaign rgroup.

Speaking with the Belfast-based Andersonstown News, James Dougal, brother of John Dougal who was 16-years-old when he was killed, said: “It has been a long time. I’m here with my sisters and brother. Our parents are both dead.

“People are very apprehensive about it, what’s going to happen and what is going to be said.

Speaking with the other families who are fighting for their right to truth, he added: “We are with them all the way.”

Natasha Butler, granddaughter of Patrick Butler, said: “It has been a very emotional journey, almost 51 years it has taken us to get to this point.

“The only thing that we want is our loved one’s names cleared, they have had their name blackened and we have had to deal with the lies that the British Government have told ever since. That’s all we have ever wanted was the inquest just to find out exactly what happened to our loved ones.”

West Belfast People Before Profit representative Gerry Carroll expressed his support for the families.

“The Springhill/Westrock Massacre Families have been denied justice for over 50 years, but they have refused to abandon their quest for truth,” he said.

“Today is an important step in their ongoing legal fight for truth and accountability. They will finally have a proper inquest after all these years.

“Five people were gunned down in cold blood in Springhill/Westrock. The British state must answer for the actions of its armed forces.

“There must be no amnesty for British soldiers, and I would take this opportunity to reiterate calls for Tories to bin their disgraceful Legacy Bill.

“Bereaved families deserve their day in court – they deserve the truth. The Springhill Westrock Massacre Families have campaigned tirelessly to make that a reality. They have my full support and solidarity.”

Urgent Appeal

Despite increasing support for Irish freedom and unity, we need your help to overcome British and unionist intransigence. We can end the denial of our rights in relation to Brexit, the Irish language, a border poll and legacy issues, with your support.

Please support IRN now to help us continue reporting and campaigning for our national rights. Even one pound a month can make a big difference for us.

Your contribution can be made with a credit or debit card by clicking below. A continuing monthly donation of £2 or more will give you full access to this site. Thank you. Go raibh míle maith agat.

© 2023 Irish Republican News