Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy inquest: Parachute Regiment chaplain denies abuse claims

Mourners file past the coffin of Father Hugh Mullan, one of the 10 people killed (PA Archive)
Mourners file past the coffin of Father Hugh Mullan, one of the 10 people killed (PA Archive)

By Staff Reporter

A former chaplain to the Parachute Regiment has told the Ballymurphy Massacre inquest that he did not believe allegations that people wounded in the shootings had been abused by another army cleric.

Soldier M118 was one of two chaplains to 2 Para in August 1971 when 10 people were shot dead by soldiers.

A new inquest into the shootings is being held at Belfast Coroner's Court.

The three-day series of events, which has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre, started on August 9 as the Army moved into republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects in the wake of the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldier M118 was an Anglican chaplain to 2 Para, the other was a Catholic priest.

Yesterday, he was asked by a barrister for the families of the dead if he had heard allegations that an Army chaplain had taken part in abuse of the wounded in Henry Taggart Memorial Hall, which housed the Paras' base.

"I have heard this, I have reason to disbelieve it," he told the court.

It was also suggested to Soldier M118 by another QC that his evidence of not having seen the wounded had been mostly made up.

"Why would I make it up?" asked M118.

"You want to distance yourself from the wounded and bodies you saw in Henry Taggart Hall," the barrister replied.

Riots : Belfast. January 1971. Soldiers frisking passengers and driver of a car on the Springfield Road, near Ballymurphy. (14/01/1971)
Riots : Belfast. January 1971. Soldiers frisking passengers and driver of a car on the Springfield Road, near Ballymurphy. (14/01/1971)
Riots : Belfast. August 1970. Troops shelter behind their riot shields during rioting at Ballymurphy. (04/08/70)
Riots : Belfast. August 1970. The common sight in the Roman Catholic estate at Ballymurphy, Belfast, as young rioters attack the army with missiles during the troubles. (04/08/70)
Riots : Belfast. September 1970. Ballymurphy Disturbance: troops stand by at the junction of Springfield and Whiterock Roads, after a crowd had thrown stones at them and two police cars. (20/09/1970)
Riots : Belfast. January 1971. Catholic housing estate, Ballymurphy. (15/01/1971)
Mourners file past the coffin of Father Hugh Mullan, one of the 10 people killed (PA Archive)
Father Hugh Mullan. Shot at Moyard Park. 9/8/1971 THE FUNERAL HEARSE CARRYING THE BODY OF FATHER HUGH MULLAN TRAVELS ALONG THE ROAD IN BALLYMURPHY ESTATE. 12/8/1971
Joseph Murphy was one of 10 people shot dead by British soldiers in West Belfast in 1971
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 John McKerr who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Fr Hugh Mullan who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Joseph Corr who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Danny Teggart who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 Paddy McCarthy who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
Pacemaker Press 17/6/10 John Laverty who is one of the 11 people died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971 in West Belfast
©Press Eye Ltd Northern Ireland - 25th January 2012 Mandatory Credit - Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye. Ballymurphy massacre relatives call for a meeting with the Prime Minister, David Cameron. 10 people were shot dead by soldiers in west Belfast in August 1971. The victims, which included a priest and a mother-of-eight, were killed over the course of three days in August 1971 by members of the Parachute Regiment during Operation Demetrius, when people suspected of paramilitary activity were interned. Relatives Rita Bonner, John Teggart and Briege Voyle pictured at the top of the Whiterock Road in west Belfast beside a mural depicting the shootings.

"You are wrong," said M118, who gave evidence from behind a screen.

The former chaplain also denied that he was the chaplain said to have stepped in to prevent soldiers abusing the wounded.

Later, he said that he recalled a phone call from a local civilian priest requesting a ceasefire, although the shooting had stopped by then.

He said a soldier had told him that the shooting had started when gunmen opened fire on the army.

When he told this to the priest, the other man hung up, M118 told the inquest. M118 had previously told the Historical Enquiries Team in 2011 that he had told the priest: "How can I call a ceasefire when it's your chaps that are doing most of the firing?"

The inquest has already heard how a priest had rung twice asking for a ceasefire in nearby Springfield Park, but M118 said he did not believe it was himself who had taken those particular calls.

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