Ballymurphy massacre

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Ballymurphy massacre
Part of the Troubles
A mural in Belfast commemorating the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre.
Ballymurphy massacre is located in Greater Belfast
Ballymurphy massacre
LocationBelfast, Northern Ireland
Coordinates54°34′30″N 5°58′26″W / 54.575°N 5.974°W / 54.575; -5.974Coordinates: 54°34′30″N 5°58′26″W / 54.575°N 5.974°W / 54.575; -5.974
Date9–11 August 1971
Attack type
Mass shooting
PerpetratorThe Parachute Regiment, British Army

The Ballymurphy massacre was a series of incidents between 9 and 11 August 1971, in which the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment of the British Army killed eleven civilians in Ballymurphy, Belfast, Northern Ireland, as part of Operation Demetrius (internment without trial). The shootings were later referred to as Belfast's Bloody Sunday, a reference to the killing of civilians by the same battalion in Derry a few months later.[1][2]

The Troubles had lasted for two years and Belfast was particularly affected by political and sectarian violence. The British Army had been deployed in Northern Ireland in 1969, as events had got beyond the control of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

On the morning of Monday 9 August 1971, the security forces launched Operation Demetrius. The plan was to arrest and intern anyone suspected of being a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army. The unit selected for this operation was the Parachute Regiment. Members of the Parachute Regiment stated that, as they entered the Ballymurphy area, they were shot at by republicans and returned fire.[3]

Mike Jackson, later to become head of the British Army, includes a disputed account of the shootings in his autobiography and his then role as press officer for the British Army stationed in Belfast while the incidents happened.[4] This account states that those killed in the shootings were Republican gunmen. This claim has been strongly denied by the Catholic families of those killed in the shootings, in interviews conducted during the documentary film The Ballymurphy Precedent.[5][6]

In 2016, Sir Declan Morgan, the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, recommended an inquest into the killings as one of a series of "legacy inquests" covering 56 cases related to the Troubles.[7][8]

These inquests were delayed, as funding had not been approved by the Northern Ireland Executive. The Stormont first minister Arlene Foster of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deferred a bid for extra funding for inquests into historic killings in Northern Ireland,[9] a decision condemned by the human rights group Amnesty International.[10] Foster confirmed she had used her influence in the devolved power-sharing executive to hold back finance for a backlog of inquests connected to the conflict.[9] The High Court said her decision to refuse to put a funding paper on the Executive basis was "unlawful and procedurally flawed".[11] In January 2018, the coroner's office announced that the inquest would begin in September 2018.[12]


Commemoration plaque in a remembrance garden in Ballymurphy, Belfast

Six civilians were killed on 9 August:

  • Francis Quinn (19), shot while going to the aid of a wounded man.[13][14]
  • Father Hugh Mullan (38), a Catholic priest, shot while going to the aid of a wounded man, reputedly while waving a white cloth to indicate his intentions.[13][15][16]
  • Joan Connolly (44), shot as she stood opposite the army base. It has been claimed she was shot by three soldiers and that she might have survived had she been given medical attention sooner, but she lay injured in a field for several hours.[13][17][18][16]
  • Daniel Teggart (44), was shot fourteen times. Most of the bullets entered his back, allegedly as he lay injured on the ground.[13][19]
  • Noel Phillips (20), shot as he stood opposite the army base.[13][20]
  • Joseph Murphy (41), shot as he stood opposite the army base.[13] Murphy was subsequently taken into army custody and after his release, as he was dying in hospital, he claimed that he had been beaten and shot again while in custody. When his body was exhumed in October 2015, a second bullet was discovered in his body, which activists said corroborated his claim.[21]

One civilian was shot on 10 August and another four were shot on 11 August:

  • Edward Doherty (28), shot while walking along Whiterock Road.[22]
  • John Laverty (20) and Joseph Corr (43) were shot at separate points at the top of the Whiterock Road. Laverty was shot twice, once in the back and once in the back of the leg. Corr was shot several times and died of his injuries on 27 August.[13][23]
  • John McKerr (49), shot by unknown attackers while standing outside a Catholic church, died of his injuries on 20 August.[14][24][25]
  • Paddy McCarthy (44) got into a confrontation with a group of soldiers. Family allege an empty gun was put in his mouth and the trigger pulled. McCarthy suffered a heart attack and died shortly afterwards.[26][27]

In February 2015, the conviction of Terry Laverty, younger brother of John, was quashed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.[28] He had been convicted of riotous behaviour and sentenced to six months on the eyewitness evidence of a private in the Parachute Regiment. The case was referred to court because the sole witness retracted his evidence.[29]


The killings are the subject of the August 2018 documentary The Ballymurphy Precedent, directed by Callum Macrae and made in association with Channel 4.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McDonald, Henry (20 June 2010). "Were Bloody Sunday soldiers involved in 'Ballymurphy massacre'?". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  2. ^ Moriarty, Gerry (5 November 2018). "Ballymurphy massacre inquests set to open next week". The Irish Times. Retrieved 26 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Ballymurphy families meet First Minister Peter Robinson". BBC News. 18 February 2011.
  4. ^ Jackson, Mike (2007). Soldier: The Autobiography. Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0593059074.
  5. ^ "Massacre at Ballymurphy". 8 September 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  6. ^ "The Film". Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  7. ^ Kearney, Vincent (18 January 2016). "The Troubles: Judge begins review of inquests". BBC News. London. Retrieved 4 May 2016. There are 56 cases involving 97 deaths. ... The stalled inquests into the Army shootings of 10 people in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, in 1971, and of five more civilians in nearby Springhill a year later, were examined on the opening day in Laganside Courts.
  8. ^ "Legacy inquests in Northern Ireland 'can be dealt with in five years'". BBC News. London. 12 February 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016. After a review of more than 50 outstanding cases it has been decided that all are suitable for inquest.
  9. ^ a b "Arlene Foster wrong to defer bid for legacy inquest funding, says judge". The Irish News.
  10. ^ Kearney, Vincent (3 May 2016). "Lord Chief Justice legacy inquests plan put on hold". BBC News. London. Retrieved 4 May 2016. A radical plan by Northern Ireland's most senior judge to deal with inquests into some of the most controversial killings of the Troubles has been put on hold.
  11. ^ "Arlene Foster will not pay damages over blocking legacy inquest funding plan". Belfast Telegraph.
  12. ^ McHugh, Michael. "Coroner in Ballymurphy shootings' inquest appeals for witnesses to come forward". The Irish News. Press Association.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Sutton, Malcolm. "An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (9 August 1971)". Conflict Archive on the Internet. Ulster University, Magee. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Ballymurphy shootings: 36 hours in Belfast that left 10 dead". The Guardian. 26 June 2014.
  15. ^ "Fr Hugh Mullan". Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  16. ^ a b "Woman recalls horror moment she discovered British army shot her innocent mother". Irish Mirror. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  17. ^ "Joan Connolly". Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  18. ^ "A powerful documentary on a horrific moment during The Troubles is on TV this weekend". 7 September 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
  19. ^ McDonald, Henry (6 June 2010). "Were Bloody Sunday Soldiers Involved in 'Ballymurphy Massacre'?". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 August 2011.
  20. ^ "Noel Phillips". Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  21. ^ Moriarty, Gerry (27 October 2015). "Bullet found in body of exhumed Ballymurphy massacre victim". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  22. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (10 August 1971)". Conflict Archive on the Internet. Ulster University, Magee. Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  23. ^ "Joseph Corr". Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  24. ^ Sutton, Malcolm. "An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland (11 August 1971)". Conflict Archive on the Internet. Ulster University, Magee. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  25. ^ "John McKerr". Archived from the original on 19 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  26. ^ CAIN - Index of Deaths - Sudden deaths due to heart problem during an incident,; accessed 29 August 2017.
  27. ^ "Paddy McCarthy". Archived from the original on 21 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2010.
  28. ^ "Ballymurphy conviction: Terry Laverty cleared of rioting". BBC News Online. 10 February 2015.
  29. ^ McDonald, Henry (10 February 2015). "Belfast man cleared of rioting during 1971 Ballymurphy unrest". The Guardian.
  30. ^ Clarke, Cath (20 August 2018). "The Ballymurphy Precedent review – touching personal accounts of the Troubles". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2019.