Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy massacre documentary maker Macrae defends film as 'providing balance to false official narrative'

By Jonathan Bell

The filmmaker behind a documentary on the Ballymurphy massacre in Belfast has defended his work as "providing a balance" to what he described as the "false official narrative believed by most people in the UK" on events at the time.

A documentary on Channel 4 on Saturday night reconstructed the events of August 9 and 11 in west Belfast in 1971.

Ten people were shot during three days of gunfire involving members of the Parachute Regiment. They included a priest attending to those wounded and a mother of eight.

In the documentary it heard how that mother, Joan Connolly, lay crying on the ground until she passed away.

Another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the troops in the estate.

The shootings took place as the Army moved in to republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects in the wake of the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldiers have long been held responsible for killing the 10 people in Ballymurphy but the accepted narrative became clouded earlier this year when former UVF members came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.

Inquests into the deaths are due to open in November.

Filmmaker Callum Macrae, rejected criticism the piece did not tell "the whole story" in that it did not go into the context of the major gun battles around the time or give the "full context" about the actions of paramilitaries including the IRA at the time.

He said: "The description - which is widely held by people in the UK - that Protestants and Catholics were at each others throats, the Provisional IRA was an incredibly dangerous force rushing around killing people and the British Army was sent in as the patsies, the guys in the middle, trying to restore order and peace - that is the official narrative, it is accepted by almost everybody in Britain - and it is simply not true.

"When I tell people the Provisional IRA did not exist until several months after the Army arrived, they are astonished. Because there is a false narrative.

"So to describe what I am doing as some kind of false unbalanced narrative is just simply wrong.

"My film actually is the balance to the official narrative which is fundamentally wrong."

Mr Macrae said "of course the IRA" were active at the time of the Ballymurphy massacre.

"The British Army described very clearly a 'major gun battle', with upwards of 700 rounds being fired at soldiers. The Army, specifically in a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, claimed there were 20 gunmen coming down from the top of the hill onto the Whiterock Road and the Army fought a two-hour battle involving Thompson sub-machine guns, pistols and rifles."

He said the reports from the time - based on what the British Army had said happened - although "well-intentioned" were "transparently untrue".

"They talk about wiping out a 'hardcore IRA unit'," he went on.

"Now I have been looking into this for four years and there is not a shred of credible evidence I can find to say any of that is true."

He added: "Let me be clear - I am no apologist for the IRA.

"No one can say there was no IRA present - I am certainly not saying that.

"What we can say for sure is no one can say for certain there were no armed paramilitaries present. And we do mention the UVF claim.

"We said most of the IRA had been tipped off and most of their members had left, that's what the IRA claimed."

Quoting Gerry Adams who claimed a "small number" of IRA remained to offer "token resistance", Mr Mccrae said there were no guns found, ammunition or shells and two of those killed had been shot in the back.

"Not for a second do I deny the IRA were there," he added.

"What the army claim is 'a large number of IRA were involved with sub machine guns'. I have looked very hard for four years and can not find evidence of it.

"Nonetheless - even though I can't find evidence of it, does not mean it didn't happen."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph