Massacre in Ballymurphy

Guest writers, Aine Fox and Chris Conley Jr. with a piece on the Ballymurphy Massacre, a war crime perpetrated on unarmed civilians by the British state in August 1971.

In Philadelphia, USA - on a beautiful spring afternoon over fifty people gathered around tables and conversed awaiting the showing of documentary concerning the massacre in Ballymurphy, August 9th-11th, 1971, and a Q&A via skype with several of the campaigners in the film. Eleven innocent unarmed civilians were all gunned down by the British army's Parachute regiment - just six months later the same regiment would go onto Derry to murder 13 civil rights protesters, in what is now widely known as "Bloody Sunday".

For almost 43 years the loved ones of those murdered in Ballymurphy have searched for justice. The British Government refuses to acknowledge the innocence of those killed. To this day they are documented as gunmen and women who died in gun fights. The reality ascertained by forensic evidence and coroners’ reports states definitively that no victim had evidence of gunshot residue on their persons. No guns or ammunition were found on or near any of the bodies. Even the words of a British judge call into question the army’s narrative: ‘If Mr Corr was a gunman, why was he shot in the back?’

On the morning of Monday 9 August 1971, the British security forces launched Operation Demetrius. The plan was to arrest and detain anyone suspected of being a member of the IRA (which translates as arresting mainly the male population between 16-55) - they arrested 342 that day but Ballymurphy also ran red with the blood of six unarmed civilians, with more to follow over the next two days.

  • Francis Quinn (19), shot by a sniper while going to the aid of a wounded man.
  • Hugh Mullan (38), a catholic priest, shot by a sniper while going to the aid of a wounded man .
  • Joan Connolly (50), shot as she stood opposite the army base - she was going to get her children to take them home.
  • Daniel Teggart (44), was shot fourteen times. Most of the bullets entered his back as he lay injured on the ground
  • Noel Phillips (20), shot as he stood across the road from New Barnsley Army base
  • Joseph Murphy (41), shot also as he stood opposite the army base.
  • On the 10th of August Edward Doherty (28), shot while walking along Whiterock Road .
  • Wednesday August 11th John Laverty (20) and Joseph Corr (43) were shot at separate points at the top of the Whiterock Road. Laverty was shot twice, once in the back and once in the back of the leg. Corr was shot multiple times and died of his injuries on 27 August.
  • John McKerr (49), shot by unknown attackers while standing outside the Roman Catholic church he later died of his injuries on 20 August.
  • Paddy McCarthy (44) got into a confrontation with a group of soldiers. One of them put an empty gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. McCarthy as a result suffered a heart-attack and died.

There were sixteen other people murdered by the British army that August across the six counties some of which were children.

After decades spent searching and demanding the British authorities clear the names of their brothers, sisters, husbands, mothers, wives and children, the families united together under one campaign in the late 90's hoping that they could use their voices to bring attention to and resolve this long fought battle for an apology; for an acknowledgment of innocence, but most of all to achieve closure and accountability for the lives lost and families broken.

So why did Bloody Sunday echo across the world almost immediately, while Ballymurphy was criminally obscured? In short - technology. The television cameras captured Bloody Sunday in all its infamy and illuminated the actions of the British army. There were no cameras or journalists in Ballymurphy on that day.

And now, thanks to the wonders of technology, we are not only able to share such important films as this one to tell the world the story, but we can contact each other and interactively communicate over the web and build a coordinated international campaign. The fight for the truth will continue!

Through questions coming from the captivated Philadelphia crowd, via a skype link to Ballymurphy Belfast, the discussion ultimately took on several narrative themes that we’ll detail here according to their topics so as to give you a succinct thematic sum-up of the discussion.

The Q&A was informative, it allowed us all to learn more about the families’ troubles following the initial atrocities. We learned about the psychological damage done to the loved ones of the victims, and how they in turn became victims of the stigmatism of the false narrative that their family members were gunmen. We heard of wives who couldn’t manage to cope with the grief of losing husbands, and older sisters who had young families of their own but had to adopt and raise their youngest siblings. The continuing stigma of their loved ones being labeled as gunmen led to job opportunities lost, and in one dramatic case a family was forced to leave their homes in majority/Unionist neighborhoods as a result of this vilification.  There was lingering depression and psychological breakdowns, and multiple diagnosis of PTSD for many survivors.

The campaigners gave us a clear and concise message of the ultimate goals of their campaign. We were brought up to date with whom the campaign has managed to present their case to and what support they’ve received. But more importantly, we were given a damning indictment of those who still refuse to meet with them. Their fight is continually ignored by the British Government - Downing Street refuses to meet with the families of those slain in cold blood. The government has often cited costs of inquiry as a non-starter for the family’s demands for an investigation. Nevertheless, it is not a financial incentive these families are after, but rather truth and justice for their loved ones.

One of the most optimistic developments for the campaign has come in the form of an independent inquest granted in the face of a dedicated campaign for Justice for the Hillsborough 96 (This was in regards to 96 fans of Liverpool FC who died in a human crush on April 15, 1989). The quashing of the previous verdicts of “accidental deaths” and the new investigation has buoyed the campaigners of the Ballymurphy Massacre group in their resolve to achieve their goals. So too has a very successful recent meeting with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who gave his full support to the campaign. The campaign also has the support of the Sinn Fein, SDLP, and Alliance parties in Stormont. However, although Unionist politicians have voiced their individual support to the campaigners off-the-record, no Unionist party has been willing to publicly endorse the campaign. The families also had a meeting with U.S. Congressional Representatives in Washington D.C. on March 16, 2013; the support of church congregations such as the Catholic Church in Ireland; support from trade unions; and just recently, we were told, the Cork City Council passed a resolution of support for the campaign and its demands.

What was the sum total of 42 years of obstruction to justice and truth? In no terms was it surrender or resignation; instead, the campaigners resolutely informed us, ‘We’ve fought for forty-two years, but we’re Irish and we’ll fight to the end for justice.’

This Justice, as they have informed us, will come in the form of their primary objectives

  • A Fully-Resourced International Investigation into the Killings.
  • A meeting with the British Prime Minister David Cameron
  • An inquest where all of the paratroopers involved are called to account and compelled to give evidence
  • The answer to the question: who gave the Paras their orders?
  • To raise awareness of the campaign for truth.

So, we asked the families, what could we do? And in this “we,” we hope to include all you readers, because, as the families stressed to us, it is important to internationalize this campaign.

  • Contact your local political representative and urge them to demand David  Cameron meet with the families A.S.A.P.
  •  Hold solidarity demonstrations across the globe on August 10 for the Ballymurphy Massacre campaign’s “March for Truth”.

Also, if we may add one last thing - just as was done in Philadelphia, share the documentary with your friends and on social media. Share this article. We urge everyone to take these steps outlined above to help the families see the realization of their tireless campaigning, and finally achieve justice for the eleven innocent victims from Ballymurphy, West Belfast. August 9-11, 1971.

For future information on the US solidarity campaign


  1. Thanks Frankie for that link to the full documentary .
    Now added to to the mirror's original post on the ballymurphy massacre

  2. Your welcome Euro... if anyone pauses the video at 1min 36sconds and reads what is on the screen it is almost an exact a carbon copy of Bloody Sunday. Death toll, date, Para's involved and the excuses they gave...

    It's frightening.

  3. Excellent article,that bloody period will remain engraved in many memories forever,the actions of the paras based in the Henry Taggart barracks over that period was a precursor of what was to come in Derry, had the world witnessed the events that occurred in and around Ballymurphy then Derry may have been spared, but then had the world not witnessed Derry how many graveyards would be filled with "gunmen/women/children" today, good luck to the families but I must admit I have my doubts re their legal reps .

  4. This is over forty years ago.. Give me justice, broken justice system !

  5. From Sandy Boyer

    To all,

    The ESPN 30 for 30 feature " Ceasefire Massacre" about the 1994 killing of 6 people at the Heights bar, Louginisland, Co. Down will air on Tues April 29 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time. Just a heads up to all. There will be another feature also shown within that program, hence Ceasefire Massacre may not actually start until 7:30pm. You can click on link for more info.

    ESPN TV Listings - ESPN


    Timothy Myles
    Freedom For All Ireland Committee
    New York State Board
    Ancient Order of Hibernians

  6. April 15 was the 25th Anniversary of the tragedy that occurred at Hillsborough Stadium in Liverpool. The quashing of past whitewash verdict and a new independent inquest into those tragic events is inspiring for the Ballymurphy Campaign.

    But what to make of Theresa Villiers' remarks alleging that investigations into historical atrocities are somehow guilty of an "almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state which characterises so many of the processes currently under way.” ?

    Does that make your blood boil, too?

    The very ongoing inequity of a lack of any actual investigation into the 11 deliberate and inexcusable deaths that occurred in Ballymurphy, Aug 9-11, 1971; and the de facto amnesty for the paras who committed these crimes that allowed them to go on 6 months later to commit the Blood Sunday Massacre; belies the false-narrative that an kind of concentration on activities of state agents has ever occurred.

    But this anger is good. This is where things become pro-active: YOU can help.

    Especially in light of Theresa Villiers' recent remarks, it becomes apparent that pressure has to be placed on elected officials and persons of political interest across the globe to call on British PM David Cameron to at the very least give the Ballymurphy families an audience to present their case for a full independent inquiry. This is what the families told us on our Skype Q&A in Philly: "it is important to internationalize this campaign."

    Please stay connected with our campaign for soon to be available template letters to your Congressional Reps and Senators. Share our group link and article link and most importantly the Ballymurphy Documentary itself. Our immediate contributions to this campaign are focused on U.S. elected officials, but we will welcome contributions and template letters to legislatures across the globe Wherever Green is Worn. Of course its important to note that this isn't just an Irish issue, but a Human Rights Issue. So even though a vast majority of us might initially gravitate towards this campaign due to ethnic background, let us share the atrocity with anyone concerned by the abuse of state power

    Thanking you in advance,
    Chris Conley Jr.

  7. Here's one to dwell on... The Tanaiste says he did not raise the issue during the recent State visit . And a few weeks later the families were told "No inquiry"...