Thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast on Sunday [August 7] to mark the 40th anniversary of the Ballymurphy Massacre and to demand an independent international investigation into the killings.
As internment without trial was introduced to the Six Counties in August 1971, soldiers from the British army’s Parachute Regiment ran amok in the Ballymurphy area, killing eleven people and injuring dozens more. Five months later, the same regiment would be responsible for the murder of fourteen civil rights marchers in Derry.
Although the events of Bloody Sunday were filmed by the international media, and the horrors perpetrated were obvious to all but the most wilfully blind, it still took thirty-eight years of tireless campaigning for the relatives of those killed to receive some measure of closure through the long-delayed Saville report.
There were no media crews present in Ballymurphy in August 1971, and the victims were quickly written off as republican gunmen and forgotten about by all but their grieving families. They were left with deep pain and hurt, but also a strong desire that the truth of those events would see the light of day.
Around 100 éirígí members and supporters participated in Sunday’s march, which began in Springfield Park at the spot at which Father Hugh Mullan and 19-year-old Frank Quinn were gunned down.
Local youths carried banners bearing the images of the two from that spot and when the march reached the Springfield Road more banners marked the spot where mother-of-eight Joan Connolly and father-of-thirteen Daniel Teggart were killed. It was also the spot where 19-year-old Noel Phillips and father-of-twelve Joseph Murphy were injured by British gunfire – Noel was taken away by British soldiers and summarily executed while Joseph died a few weeks later from his wounds.
The march then made its way to the top of the Whiterock Road, where father-of-seven Joseph Corr and 20-year-old John Laverty were shot and killed, before making its way through the Ballymurphy estate, where local workers Paddy McCarthy and John McKerr were killed. The march then passed the spot on the Whiterock Road where father-of-four Eddie Doherty was shot dead before concluding with a rally at the nearby O’Donnells GAC.
Speaking at the rally, cathaoirleach éirígí Brian Leeson said, “It’s clear from the march today that the Ballymurphy Massacre families and their supporters will not be deterred in their quest for truth.
“They have not been deterred by the British government’s attempt to pawn their campaign to the discredited HET or by the same government’s desire to stifle any new inquiries in the aftermath of Saville.”
Leeson continued, “The British government must be well aware that any real investigation into the Ballymurphy massacre will only serve to topple the convenient myth of Saville – the myth that responsibility for Bloody Sunday lay with British soldiers on the ground alone and not with any of their superior offices.
“The myth that the Parchute Regiment lost control on the streets of Derry would be revealed to the world as a lie if the British government were to admit that the very same regiment had carried out a very similar massacre just a few months beforehand. The British government does not want the truth of Ballymurphy to be revealed; however it’s a truth that must and will come out in the end.
“éirígí supports the families and survivors of the Ballymurphy Massacre in their quest for the truth and completely endorses the families’ demand for an independent international investigation into the deliberate murders of eleven unarmed civilians. It’s a case that no-one can genuinely argue with.”