Ballymurphy Campaign Comes to Capitol Hill
Capitol Hill. December 9, 2010 – Three relatives of the eleven people slaughtered by the British Army in the Ballymurphy Massacre have taken their campaign for justice to Capitol Hill. The Massacre took place in the immediate aftermath of Internment, August 9,1971.
Fr. Sean Mc Manus, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus, said: “ I was delighted and honored to meet with John Teggart and his sister, Alice Harper, son and daughter of Daniel Teggart and Briege Foyle, daughter of Joan Connolly”.
Daniel Teggart (44) father of 13 and Mrs. Joan Connolly (50), mother of 8 were both murdered on August 9, 1971. The nine other victims were killed over the next two days, August 10 and 11. [For more details please see below].
Fr. Mc Manus called on all Iris-Americans worth their salt to fully support the campaigners just demand: an independent, international investigation into the Ballymurphy Massacre: “ I promise the full support of the Irish National Caucus. We will do all we can to promote their cause in the U.S. Congress”.
He concluded :”I was deeply touched listening to these three noble souls and I was inspired by their devotion to their loved ones and their dedication to finding the truth”.
END OF PRESS REEASE. PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR DETAILS.
Chronology of the Ballymurphy Massacre
At 3.40 a.m. on Monday 9th of August 1971 Internment without Trial was introduced by the British Government. This policy was directed and implemented by the British Army with the stated aim – “shock and stun the civilian population”. In the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast, three regiments of the British army were posted, including the Parachute Regiment who over a 3 day period killed 11 innocent civilians – ten men, including a local priest, and a mother of eight children. All eleven were unarmed civilians. The killings left 46 children without a parent. There was no proper criminal investigation. Not one member of the British Army was held to account. It is believed that had justice been administered and those held to account charged, the events of Bloody Sunday would not have happened. The terrible events in Ballymurphy for too long have remained in the shadows. Here we put the spotlight on how eleven innocent people met their deaths over a three day period in August 1971.
With the introduction of Internment, riots broke out on the street, homes were being smashed up, and there were arrests of both males and females. The community was in turmoil. The Ballymurphy parish priest Fr Hugh Mullan lived in Springfield Park and amid all the chaos attempted to calm the situation by contacting the army and members from Springmartin Flats asking them to cease their attacks on the estate. With his plea ignored local men and residents’ escorted Catholic families from their homes in Springfield Park to places of safety. One of the men, Bobby Clarke, took a baby across a field at the back of the house to safety in Moyard. On his return he was shot in the back by a parachute regiment sniper positioned on top of Springmartin Flats. In desperation, people began to shout out to get a Priest. Fr Mullan rang through to the British army again and informed them he was making his way from his home to the injured man, who he believed to be dying in the field. Fr Mullan ran carrying a white flag to the aid of Bobby Clarke, on his knees he began anointing him and assuring him he would assist him to the hospital. On straightening up he was shot and with an attempt to get away Fr Mullan was shot again. He died and lay there for 3 to 4 hours before anyone could take his remains away.
On the night he died he was due a visit from his father and mother, brother Patsy and his sister-in-law Mary. Fr. Mullan however rang them and deterred their visit knowing the unsafe circumstances Internment had brought. Listening to the news later that night they had heard that a Priest had been shot in Ballymurphy. It was then that Patsy knew it had been his brother Hugh. Knowing his brother’s caring nature and hand-on approach to helping people, he was sure his brother had been present. When Patsy’s worst fear was confirmed they asked the doctor to break the horrific news about her favourite son to their mother. They were devastated and still are to this day, finding the unjustified incident unbearable to talk about.
Fr Mullan came from a close- knit, working-class home in Portaferry, Co. Down. He was educated in St. Mary’s Belfast and after his senior exams went to sea for a year. Returning home he desired to be a Priest and so went to Maynooth. His love was people and loved to see everyone including all religions getting on and his interests included sailing, swimming and music.
One of the families’ fondest memories of Fr Mullan as a child was around their home in Portaferry. An 8 year old boy was drowning in the Strangford Lough. Fr Mullan ran 50 or 60 yards and jumped fully clothed into the water. He brought the boy back to the shore and a doctor who had arrived on the scene brought him back to life. It was later revealed that this young boy he had courageously saved was in fact Fr Mullan’s first cousin.
Fr Mullan had only been in Ballymurphy for 6 months before his undeserved murder. His last Parish in Dunloy he instigated the building of a new Parochial Hall, encouraging all who helped in the building to do so voluntary and in effect bettering the situation for Dunloy’s parishioners. Arriving in Ballymurphy his intended vocation was to motivate the community to self- enhance their lives and achieve their full potential.
Local father of two, 19 year old, Frank Quinn who lived in Moyard Park was one of the crowd assisting and escorting those being attacked in Springfield Park. When he saw his parish priest being shot and ran out from his place of safety to help him and the others injured. He took of his shirt to wrap around Bobby Clarkes shot wound in attempt to relieve the bleeding. Eye witnesses heard a shot and seen Frank jolt and then drop. He was shot once in the head by the same sniper and died instantly. The two bodies lay for hours. A few brave people removed the bodies from the field and brought them into their houses, keeping them safe all night until the ambulance arrived the next morning. However, this was not without harassment from the loyalist mob who shouted at the ambulance, “…the stiffs are in there”.
Before the news hit home Frank’s mother had heard a Priest and another man had been killed. Unknowing of her own fate she made the comment, “Some mother has a sore heart tonight” and the hours that followed revealed it was her own heart to be broken. Frank’s murder had such a damaging effect on the Quinn family household. Living in a mixed area in Stranmillis the relationship they had formed with neighbours broke as a result of the negative press given to anyone killed in Ballymurphy. They were harassed by the army and house raided on many occasions furthering damage. The house their father had put so much work into was ruined. He lost his job, then his house but the worst of all losses was his son.
Frank is remembered by his family by his popularity, huge smile and good looks. He was well known in all parts of Belfast and could adapt anywhere with anyone of any religions. He met his wife Anne when he was fifteen and was married at seventeen. At nineteen he and Anne had two children and a thriving family life. Before this he never had any problem getting the girls around the dances, but this was maybe due to the fact he was very much into his appearance. He was renowned as always keeping one on a mirror at all times and making sure his mother kept his wrangler jacket and jeans crease-free. Above all he was very generous always throwing a pound or two to the rest of his family if they were short and making sure he had enough money at the dances for a few cokes and two burgers for himself and Anne.
Frank was very close with his family both working and socialising with his father and brothers. Their Friday night ritual was to go together to Keenan’s bar for a drink and go across the street to Graham’s bookies to put a bet on the horse’s and dogs. Frank helped his Dad work as a home repairer. One of his families’ fondest memories of Frank occurred a year before he died, when he was carrying out a job beside Friars Bush graveyard on Stranmillis. Frank was in great form and had the best laugh and banter with his brothers and father. This great day is now tainted with the sad fact that Frank was to end up in a grave here only one year later.
The RUC and Parachute Regiment personnel immediately released statements to the effects that they had shot gunmen in cross fire. This was patently untrue and disproved within hours by the scores of eyewitnesses who all stated the same thing – including Bobby Clarke who survived. There was shooting from only one place – on top of Springmartin Flats. To this day the verdicts on both these deaths remain open and no one has been questioned or held to account.
The sound of bin lids echoed throughout Ballymurphy, and Joan Connolly, a mother of eight got up and went to see what was happening in her neighbourhood. She and her sister Kathleen proceeded to the Army Barrack to plead with the soldiers to let those they had arrested free. However, they were not to delay when one of the soldier’s had menacingly pointed his gun at Joan and said, “There is a bullet in here for you”. He had frightened the two sisters so much they went straight home where Joan made breakfast for her children. This was to be their last breakfast with their mother.
After she got her housework done and children sorted an exhausted Joan went to sleep. While napping Joan’s two girls, Joan and Briege left their house to see what was going on in the streets. When wakened and on realizing their absence Joan went out again with her neighbour Anna Breen to collect her girls. She was afraid there was to be more trouble that night. Joan and Anna found the girls a bit of a distance away from the Army Barracks. As they were returning home a commotion broke out, with gas bombs and plastic bullet shooting from the Henry Taggart. Briege was separated from Joan in all the commotion. Leaving Joan with Anna, Joan set off to look for Briege, going to her nephew’s house in Springfield Park. Her nephew pleaded for her to go home to her safety and that he would look for Briege, so Joan left for her home once again.
18 year old Noel Philips had been playing cards on the street that day along with his brother Robbie and a few friends. They heard word Catholic residents from Springfield Park were being attacked and needed help. Noel made his was over with a crowd to give his assistance to the families.
Danny Taggart, father of 13 had visited his daughter Alice’s house at Turflodge to check if she and her son were ok. It was at this time Danny was delighted to find out he was going to be a grandfather again as Alice was three months pregnant. Knowing Alice and his grandson was safe he returned to his own house at New Barnsley Crescent, stopping off at the shop to buy some groceries for his wife and children. This was to assure their safety so they would not have to leave the house.
It was at this time he chatted with his brother Gerard who was concerned about the excessive shooting at Springfield Park. Shots had gone through his window and he felt his family was in danger. Always helpful, Danny returned to his daughter’s home and arranged for Gerard and his family to stay with Alice where things were safer. He asked his daughter to give his hair a trim at this time, and she obliged, keeping his charismatic curls.
Exhausted Danny returned home to sleep. When he wakened he left for Gerard’s house to tell him to go-ahead over to Alice’s. The two brothers then walked to the top of Springfield Park. During the day a threatening loyalist mob had formed at Springmartin, with the crowd getting bigger and bigger as the day went on.
Danny was talking to Gerard at the corner when the first shots were fired. Gerard ran back to the house whereas Danny run down towards the Henry Taggart Army Barracks where he met people he knew including Dessie Crone, Wooly Ward, Davy Callaghan and Joseph Murphy. Noel, Joan and Danny along with others who were standing talking met the Parachute regiment running out of the army barracks, they began to shoot indiscriminately and a scene of slaughter materialized
Noel Phillips was shot in the backside and lay screaming for his mother. Seeing this Joan walked over to him and said to him, “It’s alright son, be quiet, I’ll help you, don’t be crying, they’ll not shoot again…” But they did. Joan was shot one or more times in her head. She was shot on her shoulder with the bullet traveling down her arm and out her hand. Part of her thigh was blown away too. She was heard screaming, “I am blind! I cannot see.” Eyewitnesses from a nearby house saw Joan Connelly and saw she had half her face blown off as she looked up at their house. Joan subsequently bled to death. Her autopsy reports had stated that if Joan had received medical attention she would have survived. Danny and the other men ran into a field, called the Manse, where they hid behind pillars for protection. There was a short lull in the shooting and Danny took this as an opportunity to run to safety. The paratroopers opened fired and shot him 14 times. Eyewitnesses said Danny spun and fell to the ground with his body jumping everytime he was shot.
Soldier’s started to pick up the dead and wounded and piled all bodies into a British Army Saracen. The wounded party stated they were all beaten immediately including the dead with batons. The wounded were further beaten in cells in the barracks. One of them Gerard Russell who was badly injured and very weak described how the cell he occupied had a bunk bed which the soldier’s jumped off on top of him. They poked their rifles into his open shotgun wounds to heave him up, and beat him back down again. Soldier’s then threw a naked body into the cell where Gerard heard his last gasp of breath. This was Danny Taggart, the only body later brought to the morgue without clothes.
The next morning, their families searched for their loved ones. Joan’s eldest daughter Denise frantically searched the community centres for their mother. Her husband, Dennis, rang around all the hospitals to see had anyone been admitted, describing Joan by her bright red hair. The awful news he was to receive there was a woman in the morgue with bright red hair. Dennis and his son Paul went to identify the body, taking them three attempts to identify their wife and mother.
The doctor went to the house to the aid of Joan’s heartbroken family and a car arrived to take the children away to refugee camps, not even allowed to attend their loving mother’s funeral. The Connolly family’s trauma was furthered with the vicious rumor was told that Joan had been a gun woman. No evidence or statement ever confirmed this.
Similarly, Lily Philips, Noel’s eldest sister worriedly searched the streets, in the schools and C.D.C. centres to locate her brother who hadn’t returned home. The family had heard the rumours people had been shot that night but with no names given out, they were unaware Noel had been the unlucky one. In the early hours the destructive news had reached Noel’s mother Margaret, breaking her heart and resulting in her near taking a nervous breakdown. Lily and her husband Ricky went to identify Noel’s body. His autopsy showing he had by the time of his death been shot behind the ears. The family was left devastated, shocked and angry with the unnecessary murder of their young brother.
In the same way, after a sleepless night Danny Taggart’s wife arrived at her daughter Alice’s house concerned that her husband had not come home. Alice went to the army post to inquire had her father been arrested. She was here taunted by a solider that, “…they had no time for arrests, only killing”.
They phoned around the Northern and Southern hospitals looking for Danny. They went to the local self-help organisation (Citizen Defence Committee) on the Fall’s Road for assistance and phoned anywhere they could think of. On the way back, Alice returned to the army post where she received the same statement as before, however this time some soldiers cruelly sang at her, “Where’s your Papa gone…”
After more hours of searching Alice returned to the army post for the third time. On her way she met a neighbour who confirmed her father had been shot but didn’t know if he was dead or alive. The soldiers at the army post cruelly told Alice only then that there was an unidentified body in the Lagan Bank morgue and to try there, while continuing to taunt and sing at her. Hearing what the paratroopers had said a nearby citizen offered Alice a lift. Meeting her uncle Gerard on the way they left for the morgue with the singing and taunting from the paratroopers echoing in the background.
It was at this time the shocking information of Danny’s death had hit home where his devastated wife broke the news to his children saying, “Your father has been shot, he’s dead.”
Alice and Gerard arrived at the Lagan Bank morgue on Tuesday 10th where they both identified the naked remains of Danny and to this day do not understand what happened the clothes he was wearing. He had left the house wearing a dark suit with a white, yellow and blue striped shirt. Alice insisted for his naked body to remain covered to maintain her father’s dignity.
With the continuing troubles, Danny’s remains were delayed from coming home until Thursday. Alice, the eldest of 13 was only 23 when she took it upon herself to look after her Mum who couldn’t come to term with the tragedy. The younger children were taken away to safety to refugee camps and remained away for a long period of time.
In his short lifetime, Noel Phillips worked as a bar man in the Four and Hand bar on the Lisburn Road. Here he worked for a Protestant man and made friends with people of all faiths. He never drank or smoked as he was a football enthusiast and very talented at the game. His family describes him as “happy-go-lucky” he was popular with plenty of friends, always happy and a good guy. His unfair murder left his family distraught which they have never got over.
Joan Connolly is described as a brilliant mother, loving wife, good neighbour and as the backbone of her family - always attending to them 24/7. She always looked out for others, often bringing home those more unfortunate than herself, feeding them and putting them up in comfort for a night or two. She always lent a helping hand in the chapel and in particular protecting it when the troubles began. She never took a drink, but enjoyed the occasional smoke and a game of bingo. To her dismay all her eight children did not share her bright red hair and a fond memory daughter Briege has of her late mother is the day a telegram arrived to their house telling Joan her first grandchild had inherited her bright red locks. She screamed and jumped for joy at their front door.
With the murder of their wife, mother and backbone the Connolly family had to fight for survival. Their lives deteriorated and they experienced bouts of poverty, at times not having enough money for food. They had to live their lives in deplorable conditions, which they did not deserve and which could have been prevented.
Danny Taggart’s family remembers him as devoted husband and loving father. He was a joker and the heart and soul of the house with his playful banter and wind-up nature. One of their fondest memories was when he always avoided his father-in-law everytime his wife exchanged the news she was expecting again. He was known as a diligent provider for his family and never seen them go without. In his first job he trained as a butcher for Browns in Belfast and later worked as a window cleaner, a ragman and even chopped sticks and sold them door to door. He also worked the night shift in N.I. carriers; some night’s accidentally and unknowingly dropping boxes which contained sweets and chocolate which he brought home for his children. He also loved a bet and playing practical jokes on his friends, colleagues and family. His nickname was ‘Blessed Martin’ as he had tight black curls and swarthy skin. He was a huge loss and sorely missed by a wife and 13 children who needed him and loved him dearly.
Joseph Murphy, known as Josie was shot in the leg in the Manse. Josie had left his house to look for his children knowing the trouble that had been brewing that day, but he never had the chance to return. Word reached his wife Mary that night that Josie was shot in the leg and he was ok. At 5.30 a.m. Josie’s wife Mary and a neighbour went to the Henry Taggart barracks where they were told the dead and wounded were in the hospital. She found her husband in the Royal hospital and was met by a porter who knew Josie and had been sent home for this reason. An armed guard stood at his room door.
At this time Josie explained the series of events that occurred in the Manse. The army had run out of the Henry Taggart barracks and began shooting. They had trailed those who had been shot into the Army Saracen, describing their treatment as harsh as the Nazis toward the Jews, and threw the bodies on top of each other. With Josie, they kicked and beat him repeatedly, they fired a plastic bullet into his open wound, they deprived him of medical attention and of a Priest – they only thing he asked for. He told his wife that at one point a solider lent over him to pray for him but another solider hit him on the head with the bottom of his rifle and told him not to pray for a “fenian bastard”.
When in the hospital, Josie’s kidneys started to fail and required dialysis. His autopsy reports later revealing such kidney failure was the result of the severe bruising to his torso and private area, where the soldiers had beat him repetitively.
On the 18th August, nine days after he was shot, Josie was returning from his dialysis treatment when a main blood vessel in his leg burst. He slipped into unconsciousness and the doctor confirmed Josie needed his leg amputated. Mary asked why his leg had not been amputated when he first arrived in hospital, with the doctor replying as a result of his other injuries and that her husband had more injuries than a gunshot to his leg. On the 20th August, Josie’s leg was amputated leaving him with no more than a stub. Gangrene had set in as a result of the delay in treatment and beating he received. To add to the trauma, a nurse unnecessarily and cruelly brought the amputated leg into the hall to give to the family, leaving Mary in an awful state. Josie had chatted on other occasions about the ill-treatment from the medical staff in the hospital. At one point he woke to find a nurse playing with his life-surviving equipment.
On Saturday 21st August, under the advice of hospital nurses, Mary went home from the hospital she had never left for last few weeks. She took her children to mass and was met by a neighbour as she left the chapel telling her she needed to call the hospital. When she did she was insensitively and harshly told her husband had died. Joseph Murphy died on Sunday 22nd August, on his twin boy’s Jim and Thomas’ 16th birthday.
The day of Josie’s funeral two paratroopers came down to the Murphy household and laughed at the family. From then on the family home was raided on a daily and nightly basis. It ruined the Murphy family, leaving them all devastated and never allowing them to properly grieve for their husband and father. Regardless of the soldiers ill-treatment for their family, Mary remained courteous and caring for those who were injured, often tending to them, many of the soldiers she had helped returning to their house years later to thank her. She strived to steer her own children away from bitterness and anger and acted in the way she felt God would want her to. God was for Mary the only thing that got her through her ordeal.
Josie Murphy is remembered by his family as a provider, popular and caring, religious and hard – working. He worked in the Corporation, every morning getting up and making breakfast and starting a fire for his twelve children going to school. He was a successful amateur boxer and is survived in the tradition with his two sons taking on his skills. He would have always helped those more unfortunate than himself. His murder left his family and wife devastated and has never got over his mistreatment and subsequent death to this day.
The policy of internment encouraged heightened fear and panic in the Ballymurphy community especially with the unjust murders of the previous night, including a priest and a mother of eight. The Ballymurphy community realized the Parachute Regiment was out to take innocent lives. Fully aware of this Eddie Doherty, a young father of four sent his wife Marie and four children to safety in Ardglass. In truth he never stopped to rest until he made sure all his family connections were safe. At 4.35 p.m. on the 10th August, Eddie went to his sister Theresa’s house to ask her not to go to work. As he left Theresa had called him back to listen to the breaking news on Internment and a statement from Brain Faulkner, but he declined as he wasn’t interested. His only concern was his family safety and this he knew. As he walked home he past a barricade erected on the Whiterock Road. A digger driven by members of the Parachute Regiment approached with a view to dismantle it. A petrol bomb was thrown at the barricade and a sniper emerged from the bucket of the digger and shot Eddie as he had turned to run away from the emergent situation. At 4.55 p.m. Eddie Doherty died almost instantly from the bullet wounds he received to the back. All eye witnesses stated explicitly that he had just been passing by and was clearly running away from the situation. It was a clear case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time and lost his life by protecting others.
But his innocence was soon to be taken away from him when the Newsletter reported Eddie had been a petrol bomber and the BBC gave out wrong details that he was a gunman shot in Ardoyne the night before and dumped in Whiterock. Forensic evidence disproved both reports however the family never received any apology or attempt to rectify the tainting it caused which furthered their pain and anguish.
His family remembers him as devoted son, brother, husband and a very loving father. He was a joker and the heart and soul of the house. At only 31 when he was killed, he never got to see his three boys and only girl grow up. His first priority was to provide for his family. He worked hard in his job in the Corporation and on pay day every Thursday he gave his entire wage packet to his wife Marie. He was a pioneer and always kept himself well dressed and presentable wearing suits on his days off from work. He was a huge loss and sorely missed by a wife, 4 children, brothers and sisters, and a mother who died 7 years later from a broken heart.
In the early hours of the 11th August the Parachute Regiment ran into Ballymurphy. As was the norm, bin lids rattled to alert the local community. Joseph Corr, known as Joe and John Laverty went out to see what was happening, unaware it was the army.
Joe and his eldest son, also called Joe, went to the bottom of the mountain (Upper Whiterock Road) and started to make their way up it with a crowd of 40-50 others. The crowd heard shots which they presumed to be plastic bullets only. However, they seen sparks come off the metal railing at the bottom of the mountain and realized it was live ammunition the army were using. In fear the crowd dispersed. Joe and his father were separated and this was the last time Joe was to see his father alive. Joe was missing for three days, and five of his seven children were sent away to Dublin as refugees. Joe’s wife Eileen was to find her husband in the military wing of Musgrave, shot by members of the Parachute regiment. Joe Corr died without regaining consciousness. Mrs. Corr was not allowed to speak to her husband by the army personnel guarding him. She was a mother of six with the youngest still in nappies and was subjected to horrendous abuse and searches as she watched her husband die.
For John Laverty’s family, they were to find their beloved brother and son the next day in the morgue, shot and killed by members of the Parachute regiment. John’s brother Terry was assaulted by members of the Parachute Regiment that same night and still walks with the psychological injury caused to him by the torture he survived. His family continues with questions never answered about the murder of John Laverty. They do not know where he was killed or precisely how he was killed, but are sure of his innocence. Like Joe Corr’s family they only know that the Parachute Regiment claimed that Joe and John were engaged in armed actions. Neither man was involved in any organisation. Neither man received military funerals. The statements by the soldiers who claimed responsibility are inconsistent and do not match autopsy findings.
Eileen Corr brought the case to court twice. The judge asking, “If Joe Corr was a gunman then why was he shot in the back?” However, her husbands name was never cleared and never received any compensation. The families torment was continued with harassment and insensitive gestures from outsiders. On the morning of Joe’s funeral a letter was delivered to his wife saying, “May your husband and sub-human pals rot in hell”
Before his life was taken from him, Joe Corr worked as a machinist in the predominantly Protestant Shorts and Harland, working the nightshift. He would often come home from his night shift and put on a pot of porridge for his children, seeing them well fed and prepared for their day at school or work. After a few hours sleep he would have got up and went back out to work as a window cleaner with his eldest son Joe, not to the approval of his wife Eileen who thought Joe worked too hard. But he determined to provide for his family. He took them away every year to Butlins and to a cottage in Carlingford. They were one of the only families to have a television. All in all he worked to provide the best for his loved ones.
The Corr family lived to regret never having moved to Australia, a dream of their fathers and one that was on the cards. They would have then survived to see their father live and prevented the detrimental effects Joe’s death had on his wife Eileen’s health and in effect her death, as well as his three sons Sean, Redmond and Kieran, who all died prematurely with illnesses including Cancer. The effect of trauma is for researchers and specialists strongly correlated with cancer
John Laverty too came from a happy household, one that was full of love, singing, dancing and happiness. He is described by his family as a gentle giant; at 6 ft tall, attractive and always smiling. He had an infectious laugh which would have shaken the household and put a smile on everyone’s face. He had a friendly and accepting nature and got along with everyone. He was adored by the locals and their children and in his 20 years of life he never had an argument or fight with anyone. To his mother’s delight he was a pioneer which she was very proud of. He did however enjoy the occasional smoke, never bringing himself to enlighten his mother and dint her pride for him.
John worked hard in the Belfast Corporation with people of all faiths. His generosity showed every Thursday on pay-day when he dropped a coffee cake into his mother. He would have also put money aside every week, saving for his families Christmas presents. A fond memory for his sister Rita was the sneak preview he gave her of the present he had bought her and to this day has kept the present of coloured pens as a sentiment of her big brothers generosity. John was also full of jokes and had a playful nature. One of the last memories his youngest sister Carmel has is her 8th birthday, only a week before he died, where John had encouraged his little sister’s bully for entertainment value to sing in the party and show off her bad singing voice. He always made sure he protected his family and seen his sisters to safety when the troubles started. He enjoyed a flutter on the horses, sometimes encouraging his brother Terry to a bet also. However, Terry’s bets were always unsuccessful or so John would have told him. In fact John would have reaped the benefit of Terry’s winnings. He loved music and playing the guitar and had aspirations of starting his own band.
With his death the happy household of singing and dancing was silenced. Their torment and harassment continued at Christmas of the same year with the army returning and putting Terry into jail on 18th December. Such ill-treatment seen a detrimental effect on the whole families health and well-being, especially that of John’s mother and father and Terry. All in all the family have never got over the brutality they experienced by the British Army and the loss of their gentle giant.
Local youth worker Paddy McCarthy was an English Quaker. He had been working in Ballymurphy establishing their first youth club and supporting the local residents association. While this oppressive military action was taken place from 9th August the estate, already deeply deprived, had no access to bread or milk. The youth club had both as it had become a type of refuge for families who had been displaced. Paddy decided to try and share this resource with mothers who were confined to their homes. As he walked out he was surrounded by members of the Parachute Regiment. They performed a mock execution by putting a rifle in his mouth and pretending to fire. Paddy McCarthy took a massive heart attack and died.
John Mc Kerr, father of eight was a carpenter who worked for the local church Corpus Christi. He was working on a door in the chapel as a funeral was brought in of a young boy who had died in a drowning accident. Before he had left his home that day, John’s wife Maureen had asked him not to go, as it was not safe. However, John declined believing he was in no danger when working in the church.
John Mc Kerr walked away from the church with the intention of coming back when Mass was over. As he walked he was shot in the right temple, with one bullet, by a sniper from the Parachute Regiment.
Local people who witnessed the shooting called for medical attention. Parachute Regiment embers surrounded the dying Mr. Mc Kerr, not allowing entry by the ambulance. Local women would not allow them to take him away, their fears being justified by the killing of their priest by the same soldiers. Eventually the soldiers allowed John Mc Kerr to be taken to the hospital; he died later that week having never regained consciousness. Mrs. Mc Kerr found out about her husbands death the following morning when their daughter Maureen was reading the newspaper before work and seen her fathers name. However there was confusion as the paper had printed his name as William Mc Kerr but give their home address. The police then arrived at their home in Anderstown and Maureen was taken to the hospital where she identified her husband. She was heartbroken and her trauma was extended when she was never given the war widow pension. The family never received any aid or relief.
John Mc Kerr was born in Scotland, and with the death of his parents had moved to Belfast to live with his aunts on the Antrim Road. He met his wife and mother of his eight children and worked as a carpenter for P&F Mc Donald Carpentry. Before he took up carpentry John had served in the British Army and was a World War Two veteran. During his service he had damaged his right hand and taught himself to write with his left hand and learn a new trade to support his family. He is remembered by his family as friendly, caring and always helpful, often bringing sailors and others to his home for some traditional Irish food and comfort.
John Mc Kerr was never forgotten by his family and wife. They always remembered and celebrated anniversaries, birthdays and special dates. The only way the Mc Kerr family could cope with the unjust murder of their father and husband was to remember the good things.
The horrific events in Ballymurphy between 9th and 11th August 1971 have remained hidden from public knowledge and focus for over 30 years. With the holding of the public inquiry into Bloody Sunday it has become clear that, had the Parachute Regiment been held to account for the murders in Belfast they could not have gone on to murder 14 more civilians with impunity six months later. These families have survived without public recognition or legal redress for all this time. With a process of transition from conflict to peace now underway they demand:
• Independent international investigation examining all of the circumstances surrounding all of the deaths.
• The British government to issue a statement of innocence and a public apology.
The sought after outcome of the families of the 11 murdered include the recognition of the injustice they have all experienced as a result of near 40 years without accountability to this massacre. They appeal for the British Government to admit accountability for their horrendous crime and cover-ups, hoping to grant a sense of healing and closure.