Ex-Paras hit by new ‘witch-hunt’
HUNDREDS of former paratroopers have been asked to give evidence at a high-profile inquest into a shooting incident during Northern Ireland’s Troubles more than 40 years ago – despite the Prime Minister pledging to end the “witch-hunt”.
Northern Ireland’s coroners service has written to ex-members of the Parachute Regiment and the then Queen’s Regiment about the 11 deaths in Ballymurphy in August 1971.
It has invited soldiers to come forward as witnesses at the inquest on September 10.
The Belfast coroner has also written to the Provost Marshal’s office – the head of the military police – asking for any records on the incident.
In 1971, what was then the Royal Ulster Constabulary had come under sustained sniper attack and senior officers feared republican leaders in west Belfast were about to seal off Ballymurphy and make it a “no-go area”, as the IRA had done in Londonderry’s Bogside.
Soldiers from both regiments moved into the republican stronghold on August 9 and came under heavy fire as they launched Operation Demetrius, a mission that was planned and directed by the RUC, now the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Over August 9, 10 and 11, a total of 11 people were killed including a local priest, Father Hugh Mullan, 40.
The community claimed there were no IRA gunmen in the area and blamed the deaths on the police and the Paras.
Those who died along with Fr Mullan were Francis Quinn, Noel Phillips, Joan Connolly, Daniel Teggart, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr, Paddy McCarthy and John James McKerr.
So far, no former RUC officers have been questioned or asked for evidence and no IRA gunmen have come forward to give statements to the Belfast coroner’s office, which is focusing only on ex-British soldiers.