By Cian Molloy - 18 February, 2019
An inquest into the deaths of ten people during the Ballymurphy Massacre heard how a Catholic priest had called on the British Army to protect Catholics – shortly before he himself was shot dead.
Over the course of three days in August 1971, ten people were shot by members of the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, in Belfast. Members of the same British Army regiment would go on to shoot 13 people dead on “Bloody Sunday” in Derry, in January 1972.
On 9 August 1971, the homes of Catholic residents in Ballymurphy were coming under attack, and Fr Hugh Mullan phoned the local army barracks in Paisley Park to seek protection for his parishioners.
Terence Curran lived in Springfield Park at the time of the Ballymurphy Massacre, and had moved his wife and baby into a neighbour’s house for safety reasons. Last week, Mr Curran told an inquest in Belfast that he had visited Fr Mullan on 9 August and found the priest in a state of shock after finishing his phone call. He told the court that Fr Mullan said, “We’re going to get no help, there’s no help and we’re on our own.”
A few minutes later, the 38-year-old priest was called to give the last rites to a wounded man lying in a nearby field. Realising that the man might be saved, Fr Mullan got up to call an ambulance but as he left the field, the curate from Corpus Christi Church was shot, despite the fact that he was waving a white cloth.
In total, six people were fatally shot that day. Daniel Teggart was shot 14 times, mainly in the back. Others killed that day were: Francis Quinn, Joan Connolly (allegedly shot by three different soldiers), Noel Phillips and Joseph Murphy. The following day Edward Doherty was shot and killed. Three more people were shot on 11 August: John Laverty, Joseph Corr, who was shot multiple times and died 16 days later, and John Kerr, who was shot outside the parish church.
Paddy McCarthy, a Quaker, had a pistol forced into his mouth by soldiers and the trigger pulled. He didn’t know the weapon was unloaded and the terrifying experience caused him to have a fatal heart attack.
In 2016, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Declan Morgan, recommended that an inquest be opened into the killings, one of a series of “legacy inquests” involving deaths during the Troubles. However, the inquests were delayed because the then Stormont first minister, Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, deferred the funding, a move that the High Court ruled was illegal.
The inquest into the Ballymurphy Massacre opened last September and is due to continue for several more weeks.