Attorney General re-opens #Ballymurphy inquests

Eleven people were shot dead by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in the three days following the introduction of internment without trial on 9th August 1971. Today, more than forty years later, John Larkin, the Northern Ireland Attorney General, has ordered fresh inquests into the deaths.

The original inquests returned an open verdict in 1972 but there was no serious investigation into the behaviour of the paratroopers who carried out the killings. In 1998, some of the families of those that were killed began to collect and archive eye-witness statements in an attempt to establish the actual chronology of events over those three days (with striking parallels to the McGurks Bar campaign). Thirteen years later, the inquests will be re-opened, with a significantly wider remit than in 1971.

The announcement has received a guarded welcome from local MP Paul Maskey:

This is a welcome announcement by the Attorney General and moves the campaign for Justice for the Ballymurphy Victims a step closer. But while this is an advance in the campaign it should not be seen as fulfilling the demands of the families to a full Independent International Inquiry…

The original Inquests were a cynical exercise in cover-up and smear against the victims who included a Catholic priest and a mother of eight children. Eye witnesses evidence was not taken and British Army members statements were prepared in advance and presented to the Judge without any opportunity for cross examination.

In reality, the re-opening of the inquests is only a small step and is not an alternative to full disclosure of what transpired, or, whether tests for prosecution have been met. Hopefully the British government and paratroop regiment will co-operate on this occasion and not attempt to delay the outcome for 38 years.

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  • galloglaigh

    I’d also like to hear Decimus’ opinion on the same question?

  • slappymcgroundout

    “If republicans would actually engage over Kingsmills, or Darkley we might never get another prosecution out of it, but we might find out why those people died.”

    Darkley:

    …in retaliation for the murderous sectarian campaign carried out by the Protestant Action Force … by this token retaliation we could easily have taken the lives of at least twenty more innocent Protestants. We serve notice on the PAF to call an immediate halt to their vicious indiscriminate campaign against innocent Catholics, or we will make the Darkley killings look like a picnic.

    Kingsmill:

    …if loyalist elements responsible for over 300 sectarian assassinations in the past four years stop such killing now, then the question of retaliation from whatever source does not arise.

    And if you’re wondering about Lenny Murphy:

    Lenny Murphy (master butcher) has been responsible for the horrific murders of over twenty innocent Nationalists in the Belfast area and a number of Protestants. The IRA has been aware for some time that since his release recently from prison, Murphy was attempting to re-establish a similar murder gang to that which he led in the mid-1970s and, in fact, he was responsible for a number of the recent sectarian murders in the Belfast area. The IRA takes this opportunity to restate its policy of non-sectarian attacks, while retaining its right to take unequivocal action against those who direct or motivate sectarian slaughter against the Nationalist population.

  • Reader

    slappymcgroundout: Kingsmill…if loyalist elements responsible for over 300 sectarian assassinations in the past four years stop such killing now, then the question of retaliation from whatever source does not arise.
    Are you a spokesman for the killers; are you quoting an anonymous loudmouth; or is this just your guess? My guess is different, but no doubt equally worthless.
    However, on the off chance you actually *know* anything, were the provos responsible for Kingsmills; (a) congratulated, (b) disciplined, (c) expelled or (d) ignored by the IRA Army Council?

  • John Ó Néill

    Reader – I quoted stats above regarding prosecutions that suggest that some form of process was very active. In the case of Kingsmills or any other unsolved crime, is/was there no police investigation and if it is unsolved why is it not still active?

  • galloglaigh

    Reader

    I’m asking this out of interest:

    Are you happy with the way the British government has dealt with the Saville Report? Also, do you think it’s a satisfactory outcome? In other words, is an apology sufficient enough, or should there be further action?

    I’d also like to hear Decimus’ opinion on the same question?

  • Decimus

    slappymcgroundnut,

    Your argument for the causes of Darkley and Kingsmills are that they were carried out as retaliation for, and in an effort to deter, loyalist terror attacks.

    Strangely enough the argument put forward for their terror attacks is that they were carried out as retaliation for, and in an effort to deter, IRA/INLA terror attacks.

  • Decimus

    galloglaigh,

    I’m happy enough for there to be prosecutions were the evidence merits them, however that would apply right across the board for all historical crimes. There are leading republican politicians who were very heavily involved in directing the PIRA murder campaign from start to finish. If individual squaddies are to be pursued for their actions in 1972 then the directors of terrorism, who have substantially more blood on their hands, should also be pursued through the courts. One of them at least has admitted his guilt publicly.

    Do you agree?

  • Reader

    galloglaigh: Are you happy with the way the British government has dealt with the Saville Report?
    I haven’t read it in any detail, but from reports I think at least one of the paras ought to have been prosecuted (was it Trooper F? Anyway, one of them appears to have gone nuts on the day).
    But what *should* have come out of the report would depend on the terms of reference that persuaded people to give evidence that might have incriminated themselves.
    John Ó Néill: In the case of Kingsmills or any other unsolved crime, is/was there no police investigation and if it is unsolved why is it not still active?
    There was a HET investigation that blamed the local Provos. There was no equivalent of an inquiry in that Volunteer A through to Volunteer L didn’t turn up to gave any evidence, neither did the IRA Army Council.

  • slappymcgroundout

    “Are you a spokesman for the killers; are you quoting an anonymous loudmouth; or is this just your guess? My guess is different, but no doubt equally worthless.
    However, on the off chance you actually *know* anything, were the provos responsible for Kingsmills; (a) congratulated, (b) disciplined, (c) expelled or (d) ignored by the IRA Army Council?”

    No, I am not a “spokesman for the killers”. Re “anonymous loudmouth”, are you referring to a “P O’Neill”, in whose name the related statements were issued? So I wouldn’t exactly call the statements “worthless”.

    Lastly, re the part including and after “However”, courtesy of Wikipedia:

    “The reactions of Irish republicans at the time was mixed. It was allegedly ordered by elements of the IRA leadership (Seamus Twomey and Brian Keenan), but others, such as Gerry Adams, were reported to be very unhappy about it. According to Sean O’Callaghan, Adams said in an Army Council meeting, “there’ll never again be another Kingsmills”.[48]

    IRA members in South Armagh, who talked to journalist and author Toby Harnden in the late 1990s, generally condemned the massacre. One of them, Volunteer M, said it was “a gut reaction [to the killing of Catholics] and a wrong one. The worst time in my life was in jail after Kingsmill. It was a dishonourable time”. Another, Volunteer G, said that he “never agreed with Kingsmills”. Republican activist Peter John Caraher said that those ultimately responsible were “the loyalists who shot the Reavey brothers”. He added, “It was sad that those people [at Kingsmills] had to die, but I’ll tell you something, it stopped any more Catholics being killed”.[49] This view was reiterated by a County Tyrone republican and Gaelic Athletic Association veteran who spoke to Ed Moloney. “It’s a lesson you learn quickly on the football field… If you’re fouled, you hit back”, he said.[50]

    The citations are:

    48-Harnden, Bandit Country p. 134, but see also Robert W. White, p. 386, above. My note, the White work is: Ruairi O Bradaigh, the life and politics of an Irish Revolutionary

    49-Harnden p. 137-138, see also CAIN webservice. My note, the CAIN webservice links to the killings for 1976. Kindly note the Reavey and O’Dowd killings that begin the year.

    50-A Secret History of the IRA, Ed Moloney, 2002…p.320. My note, I omitted the ISBN info provided.

    Consider as well:

    “Another with similar claims was RUC Special Patrol Group officer Billy McCaughey, who was one of the RUC officers present at the aftermath of the massacre. He told Toby Harnden, “the sides of the road were running red with blood and it was the blood of totally innocent Protestants”. Afterwards, McCaughey says that he began passing RUC intelligence to the UVF and Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and also to participate in their operations. McCaughey was convicted in 1980 of one sectarian killing, the kidnapping of a Catholic priest, and one failed bombing.[45] However, McCaughey had colluded with loyalists before the Kingsmill attack, and later admitted to taking part in the Reavey killings the day before – he claimed he “was at the house but fired no shots”.[46] McCaughey also gave his view on how the massacre affected loyalists:

    I think Kingsmills forced people to ask themselves where they were going, especially the Protestant support base, the civilian support base – the people who were not members of the UVF but would let you use a building or a field. Those people, many of them withdrew. It wasn’t because of anything the UVF did. It was fear of retaliation.”[20]

    The cites are:

    45-Harnden, p. 138-140
    46-Interim Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the Bombing of Kay’s Tavern, Dundalk July, 2006, p. 122.
    20-“Blood in the Rain”. The Belfast Telegraph. 5 January 2006.

    And for presumably part of the reason why Willie Frazer was not authorized to carry what you all call a personal protection weapon:

    The Kingsmill massacre was the last in the series of sectarian killings in South Armagh during the mid-1970s. According to local unionist activist Willie Frazer of Families Acting for Innocent Relatives (FAIR), this was as a result of deal between the local UVF and IRA groups.[35]

    The cite for that is:

    35-Harnden, p. 140

    Seems that Willie has the “right” connections.

    Now from the Boer Daily aka the News Letter:

    “The [HET Kingsmill] report said: “It was clearly a pre-planned attack on a target that had been pre-selected and researched some time before. The murderous attacks on the Reavey and O’Dowd families [by the UVF the day before] were simply the catalyst for the pre-meditated and calculated slaughter of these innocent and defenceless men.”

    See the word, “catalyst”? Hopefully, you’ll do better with the word than Turgon did in his blog post here on Slugger on the relevant HET report (he apparently fails to understand that being pre-planned and pre-selected does not rule out retaliation, since as indicated, the Reavey and O’Dowd killings “were simply the catalyst” for the “preplanned” and “preselected”)(i.e., some had a contingent plan; the contingency occurred).

    Almost forgot:

    “The inquiry team dismissed the claim at the time that the murders were the work of the South Armagh Republican Action Force. It said such was the widespread revulsion that the IRA attempted to distance itself from the attack by using this cover-name. It added: “There is some intelligence that the Provisional IRA unit responsible was not well-disposed towards central co-ordination but there is no excuse in that. These dreadful murders were carried out by the Provisional IRA and none other.[18]”

    The cite is:

    18-“IRA blamed for ‘sectarian slaughter’ of 10 at Kingsmill”. The Irish Times. 22 June 2011.

    Consider as well:

    “According to the account of journalist Toby Harnden, the British military intelligence assessment at the time was that the attack was carried out by local IRA members “who were acting outside of the normal IRA command structure”.[27]

    The cite is:

    27-Harnden, PB, Coronet Books, 2000 p. 187.

    Consider also:

    “It was alleged by Harnden that IRA Chief of Staff Seamus Twomey, on the suggestion of Brian Keenan, ordered that there had to be a disproportionate retaliation against Protestants in order to stop Catholics being killed by loyalists. According to IRA informer Sean O’Callaghan, “Keenan believed that the only way to put the nonsense out of the Prods [Protestants], was to hit back much harder and more savagely than them”.[30] However, O’Callaghan reports that Twomey and Keenan did not consult the IRA Army Council before sanctioning the Kingsmill attack. This version of events is disputed by republican leader Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, who claims that he and Twomey only learned of the Kingsmill attack after it had taken place.[31]

    The cites are:

    30-Harnden, p134

    31-Robert W. White, Ruairi O Bradaigh, the life and politics of an Irish Revolutionary, p. 386.

    Well and truly lastly, re the matter of proper investigation, kindly note the decisions here:

    http://tinyurl.com/7j8m9la

    http://tinyurl.com/6sb8lk2

    So I wouldn’t exactly be found going around blaming “Republicans” for failing to “engage”. Seems that there’s enough of that to go around. Plenty for everybody, you might say.

  • slappymcgroundout

    Reader, since there’s that two link rule, here’s the Brecknell v. United Kingdom decision referenced in the two decisions above:

    http://tinyurl.com/mjc6r6

  • Reader

    slappymcgroundout; you seem to have elevated whataboutery into a guiding principle. Sectarian revenge killings are morally wrong, OK? Twelve IRA volunteers committed mass murder on that day, even by the standards of many of their supporters. Their excuses are just the same as those used by loyalists (“We had to do it in order to put pressure on XYZ…”). I don’t share the republican fantasy that provos were paragons of virtue, even by local paramilitary standards, but even I am surprised that 12 like minded people could find each other and conceive such a plan in a supposedly disciplined organisation.
    Now, here’s another thing, aren’t you a supporter of Capital Punishment (I’m not)? Then, in your view, how many of those 12 should have been executed?
    And the “loudmouth” – aka P O’Neill – made a statement that might as well have been worthless, since he didn’t claim the murder for the Provos, which would have been inconvenient, of course, but would have shown a smidgeon of class. Better than just making excuses for the murderers, anyway.

  • Decimus

    slappymcgroundnut,

    If we follow the logic of the Provo argument about Kingsmills then it could just as well be argued that the various loyalist atrocities carried out in the early nineties were justified because they greatly influenced the PIRA decision to call a ceasefire. Thus as Kingsmills can be argued to have saved the lives of south Armagh catholics, so also can Greysteel be argued to have saved the lives of Northern Ireland Protestants.

    The big flaw in the Provo argument however is that they cannot claim to justify Kingsmills on those grounds and still attempt to claim that they were a non sectarian organisation.

  • Mick Fealty

    Slappy,

    That’s three strikes.You are out!

    People, please do not feed the trolls!!

  • galloglaigh

    Decimus (and Reader)

    I agree, where the evidence is there, then prosecute. That goes for the entire spectrum. There were leading British politicians who were very heavily involved in directing the British murder campaign, and I believe, just as you do, that those who directed their ‘troops’, should be held accountable.

  • Decimus

    There were leading British politicians who were very heavily involved in directing the British murder campaign

    Galloglaigh,

    This is dramatic new information. When will you be publishing the details?

  • galloglaigh

    My God Decimus, where’ve you been for the last 40 years – a cave?

  • Decimus

    galloglaigh,

    I’ve been living in the real world. Do you have any evidence to back up the extremely serious claims that you have made or not?

  • galloglaigh

    Decimus

    I’ve also been living in the real world. Do you have any evidence to back up the extremely serious claims that you have made or not?

  • Decimus

    Galloglaigh,

    What claims are those, and are they in any way relevant to the claims that you have made in this thread?

  • galloglaigh

    Decimus

    Man up. Admit that the counter insurgency policy of the British government was as evil and wrong as Sinn Fein’s support for an armed campaign. Both affected the lives of innocents.

    Man up dude!

  • Decimus

    It looks like no evidence will be forthcoming.

  • galloglaigh

    Man up Dude. You know it’s the right thing to do! The truth will out – Set the truth free!

  • Decimus

    Galloglaigh,

    You could set the truth free by providing some evidence to back up your claims. Strangely though you refuse to do so.

  • galloglaigh

    Just like your good self then eah Decimus. It’s easy to throw shite about the place, as you and I both know. But as they say in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, people who live in glass house shouldn’t throw shite about the place!

  • Decimus

    Galloglaigh,

    I am not throwing anything about the place. You have made some very serious claims about the British government, but you have not provided a shred of evidence to back them up.

  • galloglaigh

    You have also made some very serious claims about leading republican politicians, but you have not provided a shred of evidence to back them up. So as they say in Rome – Touché.

    P.S. that doesn’t mean I believe one event happened, and another didn’t. Unlike yourself.

  • Decimus

    galloglaigh,

    What serious claims are you referring to?

  • galloglaigh

    Ah jeeeeessss. Now you’re in that big river in Africa :d :d

    Watch out for the crocs!

  • Decimus

    galloglaigh,

    So we have accusations from you about the British government and accusations, from you, that I have made accusations against leading republican politicians which cannot be substantiated, however the one common thread throughout is that you cannot produce any evidence.

  • galloglaigh

    You catch on quick. That’s been my point all along.

  • Decimus

    galloglaigh,

    Couldn’t you have saved us a lot of trouble by simply saying that you had no evidence to back up your claim then?

  • galloglaigh

    Touché