Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy inquest witness won't discuss his Official IRA past

A poster featuring photos of those killed in the Ballymurphy shootings (PA)
A poster featuring photos of those killed in the Ballymurphy shootings (PA)
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A journalist and former member of the Official IRA (OIRA) has refused to discuss his past and withheld details of a man who has information relevant to the Ballymurphy Massacre inquest.

The inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in August 1971.

Trade union activist Padraig Yeates told the coroner he arrived in the Whiterock area of the city on August 8 to meet comrades and stayed in the home of a OIRA commander on the eve of internment.

"We were woken by a bang at the door early in the morning," he recalled. "Local Provos needed weapons and it was known that (a resident in the house) had a shotgun."

The then organiser for Clann na hÉireann - an English-based support group for Sinn Fein - said no weapons were handed over before he went to help out at a pirate radio station.

Yesterday he refused to provide the identity of all of those involved in broadcasting "local news bulletins" which provided concerned residents with information.

After admitting he was a member of the OIRA, Mr Yeates refused to provide any details about the nature of his involvement in the group which is believed be behind 50 murders.

"I will not incriminate myself or anyone else," he told the coroner.

The witness also refused to provide the contact details of an individual he recently met in a Belfast bar and who has information of relevance to the inquest.

"I wouldn't do that as a journalist or a republican," he said.

The witness recalled persistent reports of gunfire coming into the station on the night of August 9, 1971 and said he heard the sound of shots which he believed to be a UVF attack.

After receiving false assurances that "gunmen were coming to defend the area", the group he was in sought refuge in a local NI Civil Rights Association office.

Mr Yeates also told the coroner that one of his associates had a "hotline" for the Home Office and Ministry of Defence but was unable to get in touch with his "regular" contact.

When told that the individual in question has denied having any such contact, Mr Yeates remained adamant that he did.

The witness penned a pamphlet entitled The Battle of Belfast following his visit.

But yesterday the historian admitted it was "republican propaganda" designed "to get support" for the Official movement.

Belfast Telegraph


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