Members of the Irish American fraternal group, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, traveled to Belfast on a fact-finding visit, meeting with the families of the 11 civilian victims of Belfast’s Bloody Sunday, amidst ta renewed focus for justice.
A renewed focus on Belfast’s Bloody Sunday, the Ballymurphy massacre in August 1971, has resulted in the US largest Irish political group, the AOH, sending a delegation to Belfast.
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 September 23.
The Ballymurphy Massacre was a series of incidents between 9 and 11 August 1971 in which the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment of the British Army killed 11 civilians in Ballymurphy, Belfast, Northern Ireland, as part of Operation Demetrius. The shootings were later referred to as Belfast's Bloody Sunday, a reference to the killing of civilians by the same battalion in Derry a few months later.
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.”
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?
Here's a trailer to the new documentary "The Ballymurphy Precedent":