Two men shot and injured in Ballymurphy to receive 'significant' damages

  • Eden Wilson reports

Two men shot and wounded by British soldiers in Ballymurphy, west Belfast more than 50 years ago are to receive “significant” undisclosed damages, it has been announced.

The confidential payouts form part of High Court settlements reached by Bobby Clarke and Joseph Millen in their legal actions against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Ten people were killed during three days of gunfire in the neighbourhood in August 1971.

The shootings became known as the Ballymurphy massacre.

Members of the Parachute Regiment moved into the area in an operation launched following the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland.

The victims included a priest trying to aid one of the wounded and a mother-of-eight. Another man later died of heart failure.

In 2021 an inquest found that the victims were entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.

The coroner, now Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan, ruled that the soldiers' use of force was not justified.

Lawyers for those bereaved and injured in the massacre brought civil actions over the shootings, alleging negligence and misfeasance in public office.

Relatives of nine of those who died have already secured compensation in their claims against the MoD.

In court today it was confirmed that similar confidential settlements have been reached in lawsuits brought by Mr Clarke and Mr Millen.

Mr Clarke, now aged 89, was shot and injured as he helped neighbours and children escape a loyalist attack on homes at Springfield Park on August 9, 1971.

He was given the last rites by Fr Hugh Mullan as he lay on waste ground, and later witnessed the fatal shooting of the priest and another of the victims, Frank Quinn, by British soldiers.

Mr Millen was shot in the back near Springfield Park as he tried to avoid the gunfire on the same date.

He was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital and underwent emergency surgery.

The MoD is to pay both plaintiff’s legal costs as part of the settlements.

Mr Justice Humphreys was told that related claims against the Chief Constable of the PSNI are to be discontinued.

Congratulating all sides for reaching resolutions, the judge said: “I know a long period of time has elapsed since the events that gave rise to these claims, which doesn’t make it any easier for the parties.”

Outside court Padraig O Muirigh of O Muirigh Solicitors, who represented Mr Clarke and Mr Millen, said: “The confidential nature of the settlement prevents me disclosing the settlement figure. 

“I can confirm, though, that the figure is significant and that our clients are satisfied with the outcome of this litigation."

With other Ballymurphy actions ongoing, he insisted that similar cases must be allowed to progress through inquest and civil proceedings.

Mr O Muirigh added: “These robust legal proceedings have provided much information about what happened to those families who lost loved ones and those who were left with serious injuries at the hands of the British Army.”