Eyewitness account of what can happen when first shots are fired

Posted a tweet earlier underscoring what I witnessed in Belfast during Troubles once first shots are fired in live situation. I had gone to Kennedy Way on Sunday morning to meet Fr Denis Faul who had just emerged from the Maze Prison (1981) where he had offered mass.
I parked on the forecourt of garage.  As of then, on left side of road, travelling towards Glen Road/Andersonstown Road junction, I faced front wheels of my car out onto road in anticipation of arrival of Fr. Faul.
Suddenly there was a burst of gunfire. I hadn’t a clue from where the shooting came as a soldier fell to the ground to my left. He had been hit in upper body.

His fellow soldiers literally loosed off all over the place at the same time as I dived from my car waving my keys frantically as I lay on the ground.

My point is that once the shooting begins there is no guarantee what is going to unfold regardless of the best laid plans. Those soldiers fired shots aimlessly in the hope that such activity, I suspect, would deter the attackers if only by way of intimidation.

  • Fearglic

    I find it hard for trained soldiers to just let rip. Their reaction toba comrade being shot was a trained reaction. Used to be soldiers deliberately fired to miss. They retained humanity. The generals noticed this and got REAL and started training people to want to kill. Those British soldiers in andersonstown did what they were trained to do when encountered by enemy fire. Did they injure anyone?

  • In the late 80’s I watched a patrol crumble after a few shots had been fired somewhere in the Clonard district. Eventually the NCO order all the squaddies to break their riffles down. This they did to the tiniest screw –then they were ordered to re-assemble the riffles. When completed the shooting was over and the squaddies had calmed a little. In this case the frightened soldiers did not shoot but EM’s scenerio was just as possible.

  • Dixie

    “Did they injure anyone?” Says Fearglic…

    They only hurt Eamonn’s feelings!

  • Fearglic

    Christy I think you were reminiscing about a government advert. The Brits murdered an innocent man in my street. Cold blood. That’s the paras for you.

  • Alias

    Was it the sound of a Thomson gun? Apparently soldiers fire randomly at unarmed civilians in the vicinity of them…

    Well, just the Paras, actually. 90% of all the civilians killed by the army in NI were killed by the Paras, so the regular army are very well trained compared to the Paras. Now that’s odd, isn’t it? It is the Paras who are the elite of the army, being more highly trained than the regular army. So it doesn’t follow that wild discharge of weapons by soldiers in the vicinity of civilians is the result of a poorly trained army in panic mode. The evidence is that the more highly trained they are the more likely they are to kill civilians.

    Anyway, your “eye-witness” account is of no value since it ends in conjecture.

  • Harry Flashman

    The Paras are not the “elite” of the British army that would be the Guards regiments and some cavalry regiments. What the Paras are regarded as is the toughest regiment in the British army, not at all the same thing.

    The Paras comprise the hard bastards, tough nuts, thugs and occasional psychos that are useful if you need to throw them out of a plane to seize a bridge deep behind enemy lines or take hold of a desolate windswept rocky crag against dug in machine guns and you don’t mind losing half your men in the process, including the hare brained, medal hunting colonel of the regiment who has no business charging machine gun nests just because his battalion might lose face against “crap hats” in other regiments.

    Such a unit should absolutely never have been deployed in Northern Ireland. If Saville revealed anything it was what many people suspected all along that the nightmare of Bloody Sunday ultimately boils down to the shocking banality of a battalion of Paras wanting to show off to the wimps of the regular infantry how it should be done. The Royal Greenjackets, a unit well versed in the nuances of Derry, were professionally containing the minor riot up until the introduction of the Paras and then all hell broke loose.

    Kevin Myers wrote about this phenomenon about fifteen years ago in relation to appalling behaviour by Canadian Paras in Somalia, as long ago as back then Myers called for Paratroop forces to be disbanded as relics of a barbarous past. One would no more judge the professional units of the Canadian army on the abuses of their paras than one should judge the generally (nb for the kneejerkers the word is “generally”) very admirable and largely restrained conduct of the regular British army during the Troubles.

  • Oracle

    Wish I had been a Squaddie…..
    Wish I had been in Kennedy- Way….
    Wish I had been shot at…..

    Wish I had seen Eamonn Mallie 🙂

  • castrosghost

    Are you sure it wasn’t a paint brush…..they look terribly like guns or so the MOD and the PPS have told us in the past.

  • Christy Walsh

    Huh? Look kid if you were around when things were happening then you’d know EM’s account was common occurrence in West Belfast -which was my point.

  • This may be Mr. Maillie’s recollection. However, since he was in the process of diving from his car it is truly remarkable that he was able to see that the soldiers “literally loosed off all over the place.”

    Mr. Mallie was no doubt terrified (as any of us would have been) and may well have remembered a lot more shots than were actually fired.

    Also since SLR rifles were not fully automatic it is unclear just how much undirected fire there can have been.

    Alternatively maybe Mr. Mallie is suffering from the same sort of misremembering as Hilary Clinton and is embellishing his story more than a little: I would never accuse someone as esteemed as Mr. Mallie of lying but the whole thing is more than a little suggestive of “sexing up” It might be interesting to hear other accounts of this incident before coming to any definitive conclusions.