Candlelight vigil held in memory of Ballymurphy Massacre victims

The families of 10 people who were killed in Belfast almost 50 years ago have held a candlelight vigil in their memory.

Relatives and friends of those who lost their lives during shootings in the west of the city in 1971 also planted a “tree of truth” close to the scene.

The vigil came weeks after a fresh inquest into their deaths began.

The Ballymurphy shootings took place as the Army moved in to republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects after the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldiers have long been held responsible for the Ballymurphy killings between August 9 and 11 1971, but the accepted narrative became clouded earlier this year when former members of the paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.

Fr Paddy McCaffrey said during the service on Sunday evening that those guilty of the atrocity, known as the Ballymurphy Massacre, displayed “an unco-operative disregard, contempt and a lack of repentance and sorrow”.

He said: “Your response as families has been marked by tremendous dignity, honesty and integrity.

“You have stood firm and patiently, and with long suffering you have simply told and retold and told them again the simple truth of what happened.

“We don’t need an inquiry as we all know the truth of what happened.

“What is required now vitally, urgently and as a matter of justice is that their innocence be declared to the whole world and the true nature of what was perpetrated here in our parish by the Parachute Regiment is unequivocally accepted by the British Government as an unjustified and unjustifiable murderous outrage.”

Kathleen Devlin, granddaughter of Danny Teggart, 44, who was among those killed, said attempts to confirm the names of the British soldiers involved in the massacre had been “difficult”.

Ballymurphy vigil
Ballymurphy vigil

Speaking to a large crowd in west Belfast on Sunday, she said: “For the last three or four weeks, families have had to relive the moments when their loved ones died.

“Families have been given the chance to set the record straight in terms of what happened and how they were affected.

“Reading these out in court was hard to do and to listen to, it was like being brought back to August 1971 and the trauma that was experienced by the families.”

A number of political representatives from Sinn Fein, Alliance and the SDLP attended the vigil, and a new mural was unveiled by local artist Risteard O’Murchu.

Ballymurphy vigil
Ballymurphy vigil

West Belfast Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey said: “People know your loved ones were innocent, they believe your story and I believe the British Government know your loved ones are innocent, but they have buried it and it has been very wrong of them to do that.

“I hope that in the court that justice will prevail, I have no doubt about that.

“I am in awe of how you have carried your strength and dignity and respect.”

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood said: “There is some people who say you should draw a line in the sand and move on, some people hoped the Ballymurphy families would fade away into the past.

“You have been steadfast, resilient and determined to get the truth. It has not been easy, you have protested and campaigned.

“In the last few weeks in the courts it’s clear it has been very traumatic.”