Saying they were there “to pledge American support for Ballymurphy in its battle for truth and justice,” National AOH Vice-President Danny O’Connell, and National Secretary Jere Cole met Ballymurphy Massacre families on Sunday. The AOH leaders were escorted by victims’ family members to the murder scenes and given a moving account of each killing .The fact-finding visit was also attended by Relatives for Justice.
John Teggart, son of Ballymurphy Massacre victim Danny Teggart, described the fact-finding visit in detail:
“The families outlined how their loved ones were murdered in their own area some 47 years ago. We first took the AOH leaders to the spot where Father Hugh Mullan was shot as he waved a white handkerchief. Brothers of the late Frank Quinn, Liam and Pat, then told how Frank was murdered going to the aid of Fr. Mullan and the wounded Bobby Clarke.
“We showed photographs of Ballymurphy at the time of the massacre. These photographs demonstrate the close proximity of Father Mullan’s house to the field where he was shot. They also show how close the paratroopers were.
“The families then visited the manse field where four of the Ballymurphy victims were shot, including Mrs. Connolly and Mr. Teggart. We described how Danny Teggart was shot fourteen times with high velocity rifles and Joan Connolly was shot by the army and then left out in the open to bleed to death. Mrs. Connolly’s daughter Philomena spoke about her mother and how she was murdered on that day along with six others.
We visited the other spots where the victims had lost their lives. John Laverty’s sisters Carmel Quinn and Rita Bonar detailed how their brother was shot dead along with Joseph Corr. Their brother, Terry, was stopped by paratroopers and given 6 months imprisonment.
Pat McCarthy and John McKerr also lost their lives at the hands of the British Paratroopers on the third day of the massacre.
The visit ended at the spot on the Whiterock Road where Eddie Doherty was killed. Here Eddie’s sister Kathleen detailed her brother’s death and how he was shot in the back.
John Teggart concluded:
“On that first day, on August 9th, six people were murdered. This happened on a bright summer night at close range. They were carefully aimed shots, direct shots, and in the end, there was no forensic evidence that any of our loved ones were anywhere near rifles.
“There was no ammunition recovered, no guns recovered and there were no security personnel shot in that proximity. This all proves that our loved ones were murdered, they were shot in the back.
“There is a campaign of fake news by some newspapers and some politicians are insisting that the Ballymurphy Massacre has already been investigated and calling for an amnesty for these soldiers.
“The sole people who investigated Ballymurphy were the Royal Military Police. When politicians say Ballymurphy was investigated they are referring to the investigation done by the friends of those who were being interviewed, who murdered our loved ones.
“Just like the Widgery inquiry, the Royal Military Police crafted soldiers’ statements to suit their version of events.
“All the RUC did was take photographs of our loved ones in the morgue and maybe statements from those who had identified them.
“Anybody who says that Ballymurphy was investigated needs to think about the brutality of the Royal Military Police over those three days in Ballymurphy. Then they can see if it was a proper investigation.”
Andree Murphy, Deputy Director of Relatives for Justice said:
“The voices of the families today, as we visited the sites where the 11 were killed gave eloquent testimony to the horror of the killings, the absolute impunity from which the soldiers who took those lives benefitted, and most poignantly the impact that these killings had on the families in the years that followed and to this day.
“It was clear that both Mr. O’Connell and Mr. Cole were moved by this testimony to hardship, horror, strength and fortitude.The timing could not have been better as the British Government attempt to sidestep their international legal obligations to these families and a rearguard action which attempts to defend impunity and disregard victims’ rights is in full swing”.
AOH National Vice-President Danny O’Connell said:
“Both Jerry Cole and I have visited Ballymurphy before and were familiar with the events of the Massacre, but hearing the deep pain in the voices of these family members as they spoke of the murders of their loved ones, while standing in the spots where these murders were committed, was deeply moving. The AOH as a leading voice of the Irish in America recognizes the upcoming Ballymurphy Massacre Inquest will be a fundamental test of Britain’s ability to give legacy justice.
“These families say that 11 innocent people including a priest and mother of 8 children were murdered. They believe their loved ones will be vindicated by an impartial inquest hearing sworn eyewitness testimony and cross-examining any witness who claims justification for these killings.
“Today we stood, shoulder to shoulder behind the campaign banner with the Ballymurphy families, to pledge American support in their fight for justice and truth.
“We will report what we saw and heard today, back to our membership across the United States, and to our elected representatives. The AOH will follow this briefing by monitoring the Inquest, and providing updates on the testimony to our members.
“Our Freedom for all Ireland Chairman has invited Carmel Quinn, a sister of one of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims to come to America and bring Ballymurphy’s story directly to our members in a multi-state speaking tour in November.
“These families are entitled to truth about the killings of their loved ones. The AOH pledges to help them in their long battle to get that truth and justice”
AOH Freedom for All Ireland Chair Martin Galvin added:
“British colonial secretary Karen Bradley has already admitted she had no understanding how elections are fought in the north.
The Ballymurphy Inquest may teach her she has no understanding of how British troops fought in the north.
“The British Army shooting down civilians in Ballymurphy was certainly different from the world she came from in England. If the evidence proves that the 11 killings were murders, how can Britain reject the truth or avoid shifting blame from exonerated innocent victims back onto British troops for murder and smearing the dead? What will it mean for her legacy consultation?