Friday, 1 April 2011

Briege Voyle SDLP Conference Speech 2009

Briege Voyle SDLP Conference Speech 2009

My name is Briege Voyle. My mother, Joan Connolly, was one of 11 people murdered during Internment in August 1971 by the British Parachute Regiment.

I’d like to thank Tim Attwood and the SDLP for inviting that Ballymurphy Massacre Committee to speak here today.

In the early hours of 9th August 1971 the British Government introduced Internment without trial. People will look back on this period as an intense mark in the history of the troubles. But what you will not find in the history books is the brutality, the murder and the bloodshed caused by the British Parachute Regiment over the three days in August 1971 in the Greater Ballymurphy are. You will not find any history of the trauma and brutality that our families suffered in what was to become known as the Forgotten Massacre.

Fr Hugh Mullan, aged 38, was shot dead while giving last rights to a wounded civilian. Fr Hugh Mullan was waving a white handkerchief above his head while attending the man before he was murdered.

Frank Quinn aged 19 was shot while going to help Fr Mullen, he died where he fell.

Joseph Murphy aged 44 was shot in the leg. Although injured he was taken from the field by the Parachute regiment to the Henry Taggart barracks where he received a severe beating from which he died of three weeks later.

Noel Philips aged 19 was wounded when shot in the backside. He was then executed with a bullet behind each ear by the British Parachute Regiment that picked him up.

Joan Connolly aged 45 and a mother of 8 left her place of safety, after hearing the cries of young Noel Philips, only to be shot in the face. She was shot another 3 times and left lying in the field to bleed to death, even when other injured or dead were removed.

Danny Teggart, aged 44, was shot 14 times as he lay on the ground close to Noel Philips and was also severely beaten.
Eddie Doherty aged 31 was shot in the back going home to his wife and three children.

John Laverty, aged 20, and Joseph Corr, aged 43, were both shot in the back. Both had come from their homes close by. Again they were shot by the British Parachute Regiment.

John McKerr, aged 49, was shot in the head as he left his place of work at Corpus Christy Church, only yards from its gates.
Pat McCarthy died of a heart attack after soldiers from the British Parachute Regiment carried out a mock execution on him by placing a riffle in his mouth and laughing at him as they pulled the trigger only for the gun not to be loaded. Friends and neighbours of the man were held back from trying to help him as he lay dying.

As a result of the Massacre 51 children were left with a single parent in Ballymurphy. 27 people in Belfast alone lost their lives in the three day period. 37 years on we are still waiting on the British Government to come clean on what happened.

To date there has been no RUC/PSNI investigation. What investigation did we get? A member if the British Army took statements from his colleagues and released storied to the media claiming they had shot gunmen and a gun woman. That’s what the history books and the papers tell you.

Today however we can tell you for over twelve years we ourselves have collected evidence of the truth of what happened during those three days from over 100 witnesses.

Three years ago we approached Relatives For Justice, where we spoke to Andree Murphy, who has guided us on a very emotional journey, that for the first time has taken us into the public eye so that we can tell our story, supported by eye witness accounts, and for this we want to thank Andree for all her help, support and guidance.

What would people here today expect from the legal system, what if it was one of your loved ones? When our cases went to the court the outcomes were recorder as open verdicts. No compensation was paid. In fact Danny Teggart’s wife was told she was financially better off with her widow’s pension and one less mouth to feed as her husband was unemployed at the time of his death.

We cannot speak about the ‘Ballymurphy Massacre’ without mentioning ‘Bloody Sunday’, where 14 people were murdered.

Had the British Parachute Regiment been made accountable for the bloodshed in Ballymurphy then ‘Bloody Sunday’ may have been prevented in January 1972; and the murders on the Shankill in September 1972 by the same regiment.

The theme of today is ‘miscarriages of justice’. Our loved ones paid the ultimate price.

The British Government like to think they had the greatest legal system in the world. But if you were a soldier accused of murder the British system would do all in their power to prove you’re innocent.

376 deaths were caused by state forces. 76 of these were children. Only 3 soldiers were convicted of murder in the conflict. All were given lenient sentences. All were accepted back into the army with promotion.

All sides in the conflict have blood in their hands. All sides need to own up to the truth and all victims need to know the truth of what happened to their loved ones by all those who played a part in the conflict. This has to include the state for their part.

We eagerly await the release of the Eames/Bradley report on the 28th January. What will be in for our families and the families of those who have been murdered over the last 37 years? We have met with Eames/Bradley on two occasions and our requests to them were very simple. We asked for:

An Independent International Investigation, examining all the circumstances surrounding our loved ones deaths.
For the British Government to issue a statement of the Innocence, and
A Public Apology
We know we will not have our day in court. We know there will not be a single soldier tried for the murders of our loved one, but we also know that we will not stop in our campaign until all our loved ones are declared innocent.

Thank You

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