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  1. ITV Report

Ballymurphy inquest hears UVF sniper 'active' at time of killings

(left to right top row) Joseph Corr, Danny Teggart, Eddie Doherty, Father Hugh Mullan, Frank Quinn, Paddy McCarthy, (left to right, bottom row) Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Phillips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy Credit: Ballymurphy Massacre Committee

A UVF sniper may have caused some of the deaths of ten people who were killed in gunfire in Ballymurphy in August 1971 a court has heard.

The claim was made on the second day of the long delayed inquest into the killings.

A catholic priest and one woman were among those fatally injured in the shootings which involved members of the Parachute Regiment.

Another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the troops in the west Belfast estate.

On Tuesday the counsel for the coroner told the court an interlocutor known as Witness X had spoken to persons he referred to as “veterans of the UVF” who had identified a UVF sniper, now dead, who had been active in the vicinity at the relevant time and had caused some of the deaths with a Mauser rifle.

Sean Doran QC, said no information as to which of the deaths may have been caused by the sniper had been offered.

Credit: Pacemaker

The shootings took place after the introduction of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldiers have long been held responsible for the killings but the accepted narrative became clouded earlier this year when former members of the UVF came forward to claim their organisation was also involved.

On Tuesday the court heard the inquest into the killings between the 9th and 11th August in 1971 is on a considerably larger scale than any other inquest in this jurisdiction.

Mr Doran said that they have requested 127 military witness statements and around 800 soldiers have been identified as potentially being able to assist the inquest.

Credit: Presseye

Barristers representing the Ballymurphy families later told the court there is concern that British soldiers are boycotting the inquest.

Michael Mansfield QC said: "There is widespread and deep concern from the families about what appears to be a boycott at what is a critical point of this inquest.”

Barrister Barry McDonald, who represents some of the other victims' families, said that at least 12 soldiers fired 117 shots into an area known as the Manse field, adding that not one of these soldiers have provided a statement.

He went on to call for them to be subpoenaed.

Angela Nolan, the daughter of Frank Quinn, who was shot dead after trying to help a wounded man, said she is proud of her father’s bravery.

She said "So many memories that we didn't get to make because someone decided that it was ok to take him from us, because he was a kind human being he went to help others. I have always been proud of his bravery. Many a man would have walked away.”

She added: "Our loss was heartbreaking.

"Growing up I could see how my friends had the protection of their daddy being at home. I was jealous of the daddy's girls and who knows how many more siblings we may have had."

The brother of 19-year-old Frank said he was watching the news when they heard a priest and a young man had been shot dead in the Ballymurphy area.

Pat Quinn recalled the family's devastation: "My mother said 'someone is going to have a sore heart tomorrow'. She didn't know the tragedy was coming to our door.

"The next morning, I was lying in bed. I was off on school holidays, my daddy was away to work and my mummy was working in the Monarch laundry part-time.

"I heard banging on the front door and as I came down the stairs I could see my daddy through the glass door. I opened the door and I saw my daddy crying. He was distraught.

"I said 'Daddy, what's wrong?'. He walked past me and sat on the stairs and said 'Frank's been shot'. I said 'Was he wounded? Was he wounded?' and he said 'No, he's dead'."

"Those three words changed me and my family's lives forever. My mother was brought home from work. She was like a ghost. It was like hell on earth that this was happening to our family."

19-year-old Frank Quinn was one of those killed in 1971 Credit: Pacemaker

In 2011 Northern Ireland’s Attorney General directed that new inquests be heard after a long campaign by family members, who claimed the original coronial probes in the aftermath of the shootings were inadequate.

On Monday, the court heard the families' contention that the shootings were the result of "illegitimate, unjustified and indiscriminate use of force” by the British Army.

The inquests are expected to last for months.

  • Watch Jane Loughrey's report: