This blog promised to return to the deliberate massacre by the British parachute regiment of 11 civilians - ten men, including a local priest and a mother of eight children - in Ballymurphy in the 36
hours following the introduction of internment in August 1971. Five months later the same Paras were on the streets of Derry and in an action similar in scale and scope they shot dead 14 people. These killings must rank as some of
the worst events of the troubles.
Evidence of that was all around me two Saturdays ago. The Ballymuphy Massacre
Committee had organised a walk through Ballymurphy which stopped at the
locations where their loved ones died.
At each point a speaker stood on a small makeshift platform and told the story of the person or persons killed at that spot. No emotion was spared. The detail of how people were shot, where and how often they were shot, and how long it took them to die was told. The desperate efforts of their loved ones to locate those missing was also recounted along with the threats by the British soldiers to mothers and daughters; the obstruction of officials; and the co-operation of sections of the media in telling lies about the circumstances of the killings.
Flowers were laid at each spot and family members cried. For them it was like
yesterday. The years had not dimmed their recollection or their sense of pain and of
Several months before this I had arranged for family members to meet the British Secretary
of State Shaun Woodward. At a meeting in Hillsborough Castle they detailed their
stories. A representative of each family explained how their father or brother or mother had died.
It was a heartbreaking meeting for everyone involved. Shaun Woodward was clearly moved by what he had been told.
The families want truth. They want an independent
international inquiry. They want the innocence of their relatives to be acknowledged by the British and an apology made.
They told Shaun Woodward this.
They asked him to consider their demands and to accede to them. Early last month he replied in a letter. His response was bland and inadequate.
The most he was prepared to do was commend the Historical Enquiries Team to them.
Several of the families who have already had contact with the HET, had already told
Woodward at the Hillsborough meeting, of their dissatisfaction with the character and quality of the engagement with the HET. They explained in detail why the HET is not regarded by them as an independent investigative body and why they
have no confidence in the HET being left with the responsibility for revealing the truth and resolving the families’ grievances.
The families invested great generosity of spirit in meeting with Shaun Woodward. His response was a rejection of that generosity. I have told him so.
But the families remain unbowed by this. In all my meetings with them and that day on the walk around Ballymurphy they demonstrated a tenacity and courage and determination to continue with their campaign.
The families have the full support and encouragement of the Ballymurphy community
and the people of the Upper Springfield. We are waiting for a meeting with the Taoiseach. And with the British Prime Minister. They recently met with a Congressional Delegation led by Richie Neal. They deserve your support.
The Ballymurphy Families can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org