I normally don’t write posts about the Troubles. I try to look forward and not dwell on the past. That’s easy for me to say because I never lost anyone close to me. I don’t have the raw pain of the missing person at Christmas and family events. But sometimes you come across something so shocking that you just can’t but write about it.
Kevin Myers recently wrote on his blog about the notorious activities of the Paras in Northern Ireland. From his post:
I’ve written about this shameful affair many times, as I have about the murderers responsible, the British army’s Parachute Regiment. But it’s too easy to blame them and them alone: their brutality and their taste for murder must have long been known to army command and ultimately to the British government. With one exception that I know of, between 1971 and 1975 no one in authority did much to curb the homicidal instincts of this regiment, which was responsible for about 80% of army killings of innocent civilians.
The Paras specialised in brutality. They liked it. They got away with it. And army command knew about it and did almost nothing to curtail it, despite regular protests from the commanders of other British army battalions, most notably Lt Colonel Jeremy Reilly, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
Not content with the 1971 slaughter (… Ballymurphy) and Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972, the Paras conducted a second Ballymurphy massacre in July 1972, when five people were shot dead in minutes, including another priest. Two of the dead were in the Fianna, the junior wing of the IRA, but this was not why they were shot: they were, like Father Fitzpatrick, killed gallantly trying to help other victims of the para killfest. One of these was 13-year-old Margaret Gargan. Many years later, a former member of the Paras told me that an NCO involved in his training had boasted of shooting her. The killer – by his own account – positively identified Margaret as a young girl in a dress – he even remembered the colour – and then he deliberately shot her. Nearly a decade later, this cold-blooded murderer was actually boasting to trainee paras how he’d got away with killing an innocent girl, even describing in detail and with relish how she went down like a sack when he shot her.
On a separate site about the Springhill Massacre we learn more about the killing:
One of Margaret’s young friends:
“We were only sitting talking you know the way wee girls talk about things. Next thing she fell down. We never heard the shot. Within a couple of seconds she was lying on the ground. It all happened so quickly. Then everybody started to scream. Then we got pulled inside. The shooting continued and it was a while before Margaret’s body got pulled in. Arthur Neeson lifted her off the street and brought her through Maggie Meenan’s house.’
“I got £68 (compensation), which didn’t even bury her – the people in the Whiterock buried her. The Army says they done it at the inquest. They tried to say she was a 21-year old gunman because she had jeans on her. There were no apologies or nothing. In fact, I never even got her clothes back.’
We can engage in whataboutery. Every killing in the Troubles is a tragedy to someone, but there is something particularly chilling about the deliberate murder of a child. All the more disturbing that the murder was carried out by a servant of the state, someone paid for out of our taxes to protect the citizens. All in all nearly 100 children were killed in the Troubles.
As I write this the sun is shining through a perfect blue sky. Margaret and the other 3,500 victims of the Troubles never lived to see another summer. When our politicians and community leaders threaten unrest and civil disobedience we always need to remember that this can very easily lead to blood on the streets and more grieving families.
I help to manage Slugger by taking care of the site as well as running our live events. My background is in business, marketing and IT. My politics tend towards middle-of-the-road pragmatism, I am not a member of any political party. Oddly for a member of the Slugger team, I am not that interested in daily politics, preferring to write about big ideas in society. When not stuck in front of a screen, I am a parkrun Run Director.