Tell Us Why You Shot Them

A screenshot of some of those who took part in the post Ballymurphy verdict Webinar organized by the AOH

By Irish Echo Staff

After holding a post-verdict Webinar on Saturday, May 15, the Ancient Order of Hibernians has issued a statement on the Ballymurphy Massacre inquest verdict by way of National Freedom for all Ireland Chairman, Martin Galvin.

Said Galvin: “Relatives of Ballymurphy Massacre victims asked 'why British troopers shot our innocent loved ones' during a live webinar broadcast hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, following Judge Siobhan Keegan’s inquest verdict.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

"The emotional plea came in a series of dramatic revelations made by victims’ relatives John Teggart, Briege Voyle, and Carmel Quinn, accompanied by solicitor Padraig O’Muirigh.

"The broadcast was also joined by Senator Robert Menendez, Congressman Chris Smith, Irish Consul General in New York Ciaran Madden, British Labour Party Shadow Northern Secretary Louise Haigh, Director of Relatives for Justice Mark Thompson, former Fine Gael TD John Deasy, Sinn Fein representative Ciaran Quinn, leading Hibernians and other Irish American leaders."

Continued Galvin: “The broadcast opened with video showing the jubilant reception given the campaigners on their return to Ballymurphy after the inquest verdict.

"AOH National President Danny O’Connell then read the names of each of the ten victims shot dead by British troops between August 9th-11th 1971. Senator Menendez congratulated these families whose loved ones had been declared innocent after almost 50 years. He promised quick passage of his Senate Resolution co-sponsored with Senator Susan Collins, which includes full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement and justice for all victims killed by state sponsored violence. (the resolution was duly passed Monday evening, May 17).

“In remarks clearly pointed at British trooper amnesty plans Congressman Chris Smith said there should be 'no expiration date on justice for Ballymurphy.' He noted that John Teggart had testified in a congressional committee in 2011, but it took ten more years for Judge Keegan to proclaim what the families have been saying for almost 50 years, that every victim of the three day massacre was innocent.

“Even long time followers of the Ballymurphy campaign were shocked by new revelations. Breige Voyle said that none of the families knew the full story of what happened to their loved ones until they got the autopsy and medical records under the inquest discovery.

"Her mother, Joan Connolly, left her home after hearing a wounded man crying out for help. Mrs. Connolly, a grandmother and mother of eight children, was shot in the face as she went to help Noel Phillips. She was not given any medical treatment which would have saved her life, but left on the ground to bleed to death over several hours.

“Noel Phillips was later shot execution style, with bullets fired behind each ear. Daniel Teggart was shot 14 times. Joseph Murphy was also shot in this incident, and died two weeks later from his wounds.

“Medical orderlies were asked to plant ammunition on the dead bodies but refused. A subsequent claim that Mr. Teggart had 38 bullets in his trousers, was rejected in a special finding by Judge Keegan.

"The British had cover stories for each killing, claiming they were gunmen and gunwomen who had fired on British troopers. No weapons were found. Judge Keegan said all four people were totally innocent, and there was no justification for killing any of them. There was no adequate investigation in their deaths until the inquest. Breige Voyle called on the British to 'Tell us why you shot them!'"

The Webinar participants learned that a process of covering up began even as bodies were still lying on the streets of Ballymurphy.

Said Galvin: “Carmel Quinn was 8-years-old when her brother John Laverty was murdered along with Joseph Corr. British press officer Mike Jackson held a press conference before the dead bodies were removed.

"Jackson, who became Britain’s highest ranking general, told the press that the two men were IRA Volunteers who fired at British troopers with a machine gun and pistol. No weapons were recovered near their bodies. The men were clearly unarmed, and an autopsy revealed they were both shot in the back. Mrs. Quinn said 'the British cover-up began while the dead bodies were still lying in the street.'

“John Teggart likened the murder of Fr. Hugh Mullan to the iconic Bloody Sunday photo or mural of Bishop Edward Daly holding up a white handkerchief as others helped a wounded man. Catholic priest Fr. Mullan was shot down along with Francis Quinn, while holding up a white handkerchief, and going to aid a wounded victim.

“Edward Doherty was asking direction when shot. A British trooper claimed Mr. Doherty was about to throw a petrol bomb. Swabs were taken of Mr. Doherty’s hands and clothing to test for led, petrol or gunshot residue. All test results mysteriously disappeared. Judge Keegan said Mr. Doherty was an innocent victim and no petrol bomber or threat to anyone.

“John McKerr had suffered a permanent hand injury while serving in the British army during World War II. He had just been working at Corpus Christi Church when killed. He too was declared totally innocent

“Solicitor Padraig O’Muirigh outlined why it took fifty years for these families to get justice. After the killings the British Royal Military Police rubber stamped the murders. The campaign began in 1998 after the Good Friday Agreement. It took more than a decade before the Attorney General ordered a new inquest and almost another decade before the inquest began. British troopers who fired the fatal shots simply refused to attend the inquest or give the court any reason for opening fire. Those who attended usually hid behind screens or refused to be identified by name.

“The British government then added more insult to injury by announcing plans to legislate an amnesty for its troopers and break its Stormont House Agreement pledge of a Historical Investigations Unit. Without a Historical Investigations Unit and access to British military records there would be value in any in any legacy mechanisms and no way to get the truth."

The Webinar heard why the families had rejected a letter of apology from British Prime Minister Bosrin Johnson.

Stated Galvin: “The families rejected what they termed Boris Johnson’s non-apology. Johnson was not even present in Westminster when his secretary Brandon Lewis mentioned Ballymurphy. A letter delivered moments before Lewis spoke stated regret for the events without any acknowledgement that the British crown had murdered their loved ones.

"The families then received important statements of congratulation and support. Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden said the Irish government opposed any amnesty and any departure from the Stormont House Agreement. Labour Party Shadow Northern Secretary Louise Haigh accused Boris Johnson of an inexcusable lack of basic decency....burying the truth and refusing to investigate crimes is not the way to achieve reconciliation."

Other speakers from Ireland included Mark Thompson, John Deasy and Ciaran Quinn. Leading AOH, and LAOH members spoke. Leaders of the Irish American Unity Conference, Irish Northern Aid and the Brehons also participated.

Martin Galvin concluded: “The Ballymurphy Massacre families have been an inspiration to the families of hundreds of victims murdered by British crown forces directly or in collusion with loyalists.

"The inquest verdict was a triumph for them and for all Irish victims’ families who have been denied justice. Britain responds by trying to impose trooper amnesty laws and to cut out Historical Investigations from legacy laws. The crown wants to bury the truth along with its victims. They must not be allowed to get away with it.”