Belfast Telegraph

Ballymurphy massacre: Paras officer expressed sorrow over shot priest

Condolences: Fr Hugh Mullan
Condolences: Fr Hugh Mullan

By Staff Reporter

A Parachute Regiment battalion commander wrote a letter of condolence in praise of a priest shot dead during what has become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.

The letter was revealed at yesterday's hearing of the inquest into the deaths of 10 people in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in August 1971.

One of the deceased was Fr Hugh Mullan (38), who died in Springfield Park on August 9, 1971 as he was giving the last rites to a wounded man.

Written by Lieutenant Colonel Peter Chiswell, the officer commanding the 3rd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, the letter was sent to Bishop William Philbin - and dated 10 days after Fr Mullan was shot.

The letter had been kept by the Mullan family since 1971 and was read out at the hearing yesterday.

It read: "I write to you now with a deep sense of sorrow and loss to express the sympathies of every officer and parachute solder in the 3rd battalion the Parachute Regiment.

"We knew this fine Christian man, Father Hugh Mullan, very well during our four-and-a-half months on peace-keeping duties in SW Belfast."

Lt Col Chiswell's 3 Para battalion were in west Belfast for several months, leaving just weeks before the shootings. They were replaced by 2 Para.

"In the face of the most appalling troubles, we found him a priest to whom we could go for help, advice, guidance and encouragement, his charm, commonsense and total dedication to his parish soon won our respect," the soldier wrote.

"Later as we worked together, a bond of friendship developed between us which meant so much to us all, particularly to those officers and senior NCOs who had daily contact with him.

"If ever we have seen a true example of Christian courage then we have been privileged to see it in the work and Ministry of Father Hugh Mullan," the letter concluded.

The inquest continues next week.

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