Northern Ireland

Ballymurphy inquest: Soldiers 'did not help' as houses attacked

Ballymurphy Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The shootings took place hours after internment was introduced

A man has told the Ballymurphy inquest that although a priest told the British Army that homes in the area were coming under attack, soldiers would not help them.

Terence Curran had moved his wife and eight-week-old baby out of their home in Springfield Park as a result.

The inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the Ballymurphy area in August 1971.

Terence Curran's family had relocated into the home of a neighbour.

At Thursday's hearing, Mr Curran explained that he visited the home of Fr Hugh Mullan on the day in question, shortly before the priest was shot dead on 9 August 1971.

'We're on our own'

The 10 people died during three days of gunfire following the introduction of internment.

Mr Curran said Fr Mullan had been on the phone with the Army in Paisley Park to ask them to come and protect homes in the area from the crowds in Springmartin.

He said Fr Mullan finished his phone call with the Army in a state of shock and said: "We're going to get no help, there's no help, and we're on our own."

The 38-year-old priest was shot dead just minutes later, after giving a wounded man the last rites.

Francis Quinn, 19, was shot and killed at about the same time.

Mr Curran explained that he had later heard rifle fire, and that he subsequently discovered bullet holes in a bedroom and bathroom in his house.

"If you lived in Belfast," he said, "you were able to tell the difference between rifle fire and small arms fire."

He revealed that in later days, when paratroopers had looked around the house, one had dug a bullet out of the hole with his penknife, and said it was a 0.45 round, such as that which might have come from a Thompson sub-machine gun.

Earlier, another witness had told the inquest how he lay caught in cross fire from heavy weapons for up to half an hour.

Michael Doherty was in the Springfield Park and Moyard areas when shooting broke out.

Image caption Fr Hugh Mullan's request to British soldiers was declined, a witness told the inquest

"Only the British army would've had that firepower," he told the court.

"It was really scary."

At one stage, he told the court, he saw a young girl cross the road at Moyard Park and fall.

Thinking she had been shot, a man ran over and lay over her to protect her.

Victim was 'not carrying weapon'

Mr Doherty said that "the bullets bounced around them", but that to his amazement, they both got up and ran to safety, uninjured.

He said that another man was shot in the leg but was not badly hurt where they were taking cover.

The incident caused his group to scatter and run away.

He said he had earlier seen two civilians with pistols in the upper floors of flats in the Protestant Springmartin area, firing down towards him and other people in Springfield Park.

He said he had not seen any other civilians with weapons at any stage that day.

Michael Doherty also described an incident earlier in the day when he met his aunt, Joan Connolly, in Springfield Park, who was looking for two of her daughters.

He walked her part of the way home.

He told the court she had not been carrying a weapon.

He was asked about this because Joan Connolly was shot dead later that evening near the Henry Taggart base on the Springfield Road.

The Army said it had "shot a gunwoman".

Her family and other witnesses have consistently denied that Mrs Connolly was a gunwoman.

Image caption Nine men and a woman were killed in Ballymurphy in August 1971

Mrs Connolly was a mother of eight and a grandmother, whose eldest daughter was married to a British soldier.

Mr Doherty told the court he met some paratroopers the next day as he was moving his possessions from his home, and that one of them boasted that the gunwoman had been shot.

He assumed they were referring to his aunt and he became very angry, he said.

Later, another witness, Thomas McAllister, described bringing children to safety from Springfield Park.

He said women and children escaped the area before any shooting broke out.

He described how he ran onto waste ground to help a man who had been wounded, and saw Fr Hugh Mullan when he was shot.

Mr McAllister explained that he had helped several people in the area that day, some of them wounded.

He also helped carry the body of Fr Mullan to a local community centre.

He explained that he had seen soldiers at three or four chimneys on the top of Springmartin flats and thought that they had been the ones firing.

He added that he had not seen any civilians with weapons, or firing weapons that day.

Who were the victims?

  • Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Francis Quinn, 19, were shot in an area of open ground behind Springfield Park
  • Daniel Teggart, 44, Joan Connolly, 44, Noel Phillips, 19, and Joseph Murphy, 41, were shot near the Henry Taggart Army base near Springfield Park
  • John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were shot at separate points at the top of Whiterock Road
  • Edward Doherty, 31, was shot at the corner of Brittons Parade and Whiterock Road
  • John McKerr, 49, was shot outside the old Corpus Christi Parish

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