Findings from fresh Ballymurphy shootings inquests to be published

A mother of eight and a Catholic priest were among those who died in August 1971 
Findings from fresh Ballymurphy shootings inquests to be published
Patsy Mullan, brother of Father Hugh Mullan, visits his grave at St Patrick’s Church in Portaferry (Liam McBurney/PA)

Findings will be published later following fresh inquests into the fatal shooting of 10 people in disputed circumstances involving the Army in west Belfast 50 years ago.

A mother of eight and a Catholic priest were among those who died in August 1971 in events which have become known locally as the Ballymurphy Massacre.

It came during a turbulent period following the controversial introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland at the start of the Troubles.

Violence erupted on August 9 when soldiers moved into republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects.

Original inquests into the Ballymurphy deaths in 1972 returned open verdicts and the bereaved families subsequently pursued a long campaign for fresh probes to be held.

New inquests began in 2018, with the final oral evidence heard last March.

The victims were shot dead in Ballymurphy in 1971 (Ballymurphy Massacre Committee/PA)

Eye-witnesses, forensic experts, former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and more than 60 former soldiers – including former head of the Army General Mike Jackson – gave evidence at Belfast Coroner’s Court.

The families of those killed contend they were innocent, unarmed civilians shot by soldiers without justification.

Relatives took part in a church service on Monday ahead of the findings and described their feeling that Tuesday will be a hard and anxious day.

Briege Voyle said the pain of losing her mother, Joan Connolly, was made even harder when misinformation was circulated that she had been a gunwoman.

Ms Voyle told the PA news agency that she is praying Ms Connolly’s name will finally be cleared on the official record five decades later.

Briege Voyle with a picture of her mother, Joan Connolly (Niall Carson/PA)

Father Hugh Mullan was shot after he had crawled to waste ground where a man had been shot to administer the Last Rites.

His brother, Patsy, described him as simply wanting to help people.

“My brother was not involved in anything other than going out to help somebody,” he said.

“He was a priest and anointed a man; as he left him to go and try and get an ambulance he was shot.”

The findings are due on a day that an intention by the UK Government to ban future prosecutions of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland is expected to be outlined in the Queen’s Speech.

It has been reported that the move will also apply to former paramilitaries.

Troubles victims and politicians across Ireland voiced anger at the expected move last week when it was reported in the Daily Telegraph and the Times.

How events unfolded in Ballymurphy in August 1971

The scene in Ballymurphy where a number of people died after being shot in August 1971 in incidents involving the army during a chaotic time following the introduction of the controversial internment without trial policy across Northern Ireland. Picture: Ballymurphy families/PA Wire
The scene in Ballymurphy where a number of people died after being shot in August 1971 in incidents involving the army during a chaotic time following the introduction of the controversial internment without trial policy across Northern Ireland. Picture: Ballymurphy families/PA Wire

A mother of eight and a Catholic priest were among ten people fatally wounded in disputed shootings involving the army in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast between August 9-11 1971.

The scenes came at a chaotic time across Northern Ireland following the controversial decision to implement internment without trial in response to the start of the Troubles.

Findings following fresh inquests into the 10 deaths will be delivered by Coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan on Tuesday.

This is how events unfolded.

August 9 

Soldiers were dispatched in the early hours to arrest scores of people regarded as IRA suspects as internment without trial came into effect.

They were met with disorder across Northern Ireland.

That evening, at Springfield Park in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, parish priest Father Hugh Mullan, 38, died after being caught in gunfire as he went to the aid of a wounded man.

Frank Quinn, 19, was also fatally wounded as he tried to help Fr Mullan.

At the same time, outside an army barracks at the Henry Taggart Hall on Divismore Park, Noel Philips, 19, Joseph Murphy, 41, Joan Connolly, 44, and Daniel Teggart, 44, were fatally wounded by gunfire.

August 10 

Eddie Doherty, 31, died after being shot on the Whiterock Road as he came across an encounter between soldiers and protesters who had erected a barricade across the road.

August 11 

Joseph Corr, 43, and John Laverty, 20, were shot in the Whiterock Road area in the early hours of the morning.

Mr Corr died 16 days later from his injuries.

Former soldier John McKerr, 49, was shot later that morning on Westrock Drive close to Corpus Christi Church as he took a break from maintenance work.

He died of his injuries on August 20.

An 11th person, Paddy McCarthy, 44, was shot in the hand at a community centre.

He later died of a heart attack.

His death was not included in the fresh inquests.

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