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Ballymurphy inquest an 'emotional roller coaster', says victims' son

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John Teggart, standing in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, where his father Daniel Teggart, was among those killed in the series of shootings between August 9-11, 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

John Teggart, standing in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, where his father Daniel Teggart, was among those killed in the series of shootings between August 9-11, 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

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John Teggart, standing in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, where his father Daniel Teggart, was among those killed in the series of shootings between August 9-11, 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Thirteen months of inquest hearings into the 1971 shooting of 10 civilians in west Belfast have been described as an "emotional roller coaster".

John Teggart, whose father Daniel was among those killed in the series of shootings between August 9-11 1971 in Ballymurphy, said even after campaigning for decades, the hearings had been hard.

Fresh inquests opened into the deaths - which include a priest and a mother of 10 - in November 2018 under presiding coroner Mrs Justice Keegan.

The shootings came at a time of mass rioting across Northern Ireland following the introduction of the controversial policy of internment, which saw hundreds of mostly Catholic men detained in mass arrests.

Soldiers have long been held responsible for the Ballymurphy killings, but the accepted narrative became clouded in May 2018 when former UVF members came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among witnesses to the inquests, and said that although he had not been a member of the Provisional IRA, he believes they had decided not to engage the soldiers well before civilians were shot and killed.

The bulk of the evidence has now been heard, but there are 10 potential witnesses who lawyers for the next of kin are urging the coroner to obtain evidence from before she begins deliberating on her findings.

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A mural on a wall in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast where shooting of 10 civilians took place in 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A mural on a wall in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast where shooting of 10 civilians took place in 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

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A mural on a wall in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast where shooting of 10 civilians took place in 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The Ballymurphy inquests are set to be followed over the next five years with a number of other coronial probes into events from Northern Ireland's troubled past.

Mr Teggart said the experience had not been easy, even for hardened campaigners.

"We thought we were hardened campaigners who had heard everything and knew everything, but it was an emotional roller coaster from the very start once we entered court and heard the finer details from eye witnesses about how our loved ones died," he told the PA news agency.

"When you heard their (civilian eye witnesses) details and saw them reliving what they had seen, you could see that they were traumatised - and still traumatised - by what they had seen.

"Individual family members broke down in court hearing some of these eye witnesses for the first time.

"But one thing that shone through was the dignity of the families in court, even on hard days when they were hearing evidence from soldiers."

Mr Teggart said many family members made sacrifices to be present.

"It was just something that had to be done, if you had to leave a job, come out of work, lost wages," he said.

"That was what we campaigned for and none of the families would have missed it."

Mr Teggart was just 11 years old when his father was shot.

"He was a good family man, great crack, great company, a funny man, a hard working man - someone you would respect and admire," he said.

"I remember I was in the house, I heard the shooting, I wouldn't have been aware that my father was getting shot. The next day I remember my brother Jim coming into the house, I was in the living room when my mother told him, 'your daddy is dead'.

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A mural on a wall in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast where the shooting of 10 civilians took place in 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

A mural on a wall in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast where the shooting of 10 civilians took place in 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

PA

A mural on a wall in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast where the shooting of 10 civilians took place in 1971. Credit: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

"I went down to the barracks and threw a few stones. The anger in me even as an 11-year-old. I remember my sister coming, consoling me and taking me home."

Mr Teggart went on to work in the construction industry, and when the Henry Taggart hall was demolished, he found himself watching the brick layers preparing to build a nursing home on the site.

"I asked them could I put that (block down) and that was the first founding stone," he said.

"Fifty yards away across the road was where my father was shot 14 times and lay dying. I looked at it every day for about a year while I was working in the area."

He said the Ballymurphy deaths affect more than just direct relatives.

"It's 11 civilians (including Pat McCarthy whose death is not included in the inquests), but you have to remember the eye witnesses, those that were wounded, the neighbours, extended family ... the whole area was affected. And now the whole community is behind us."

Mr Teggart said the families will consider the findings when they are published as a group before deciding their next steps.

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