Ex-paratrooper tells Ballymurphy inquest soldiers ‘lost control’

Ten civilians were shot dead over the course of three days in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in 1971. Credit: Ballymurphy Massacre Committee

A former paratrooper has broken down and cried in the witness box as he told the Ballymurphy inquest he believes innocent people were shot dead, and that rogue soldiers revelled in what they were doing.

The inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast, during three days of gunfire in August 1971.

Identified only as M597, the former member of A Company 2 Para said he was in the Henry Taggart army base on the evening of the 9th of August where he said he saw three or four bodies.

He told the inquest the soldiers there “had no feelings, no respect. It was a joke to them.”

The former soldier described how officers in B company had “lost control” and said he believed that "whatever moved out there, regardless of size, male or female, were going to be shot as they were of the opinion they were all associated with the IRA."

M597 said he thought the soldiers were “enjoying it and couldn’t wait to get back out there”.

The former soldier said that not all the soldiers in Ballymurphy fell into this category, some were “good and professional, but there were also psychopaths who were dangerous to be around.”

On the morning of the 9th August he said there was absolute chaos in Ballymurphy and also chaos in the parachute regiment.

Six were killed on that date, including a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight.

The sequence of events started as the British Army moved into republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects after the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

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