The families of those killed by the British Army in Ballymurphy in 1971 attended a series of meetings with the Bloody Sunday campaigners and Mayor of Derry, Councillor Colum Eastwood this week.
Eleven people were killed and 11 more wounded by the British Army as they carried out Operation Demetrius, the detention and internment without trial of over 300 people. The killings have become known as ‘The Ballymurphy Massacre’ and occurred between August 9 and 11, 1971 when hundreds of troops entered Ballymurphy.
Janet Donnolly, whose father Joseph Murphy was killed on August 9, 1971 aged only 41, attended the meetings which she described as “very helpful.” Mrs. Donnolly was 12 years old when her father was shot, she had 11 siblings who were also bereaved. “In all there was 57 children left without a parent following the actions of the British Army in those two days in Ballymurphy. All the victims were labelled IRA gunmen, even local priest Fr. Mullan, who was shot as he treated an injured man.”
She revealed how no police investigation was ever conducted into the killings and an MOD file stamped ‘Classified’ was uncovered by the families. It was also marked ‘File Closed.’ the only statements ever taken were military witnesses, no civilians were ever asked to make a statement. The coroner recorded open verdicts on the death certificates.
“We weren’t even notified about my father’s death, we only knew when my mother went to recover his body.”
This summer marks the fortieth anniversary of the deaths. The families plan to hold a march in order to secure their two aims. Janet Donnolly said; “We want a statement of innocence and an apology from the British Government.”
The Belfast families met with a number of relatives of those murdered on Bloody Sundaym Derry mayor Councillor, Colum Eastwood and representatives of the AOH who made a donation to the campaign funds. “We queried how the Derry families approached the campaign and on how to maximise the impact from this summer’s events. We met with them a few times prior and are thankful for their help.”
A number of events will be held to highlight the Ballymurphy campaign this August. A play, entitled ‘Ballymurphy, The Aftermath’ written by Brenda Murphy will debut. Brenda is a niece of Joseph Murphy, There will also be a photographic exhibition at Belfast City Hall and the march on August 7th. “We would particularly like Derry people to attend that,” requested Janet.
“The Mayor Of Derry Colum Eastwood also met with us and said he will join the Derry families and attend the march even though his term of office will be over. We would organise a walk of truth every August but this year we want a march and as many people as possible to attend. We asked the Derry campaigners to attend and they are happy to do so.”
Mayor of Derry, Colr. Eastwood said: “We have always been strong supporters of the Ballymurphy families and their call for an independent international inquiry into the killings. Our MPs have pressed their case at Westminster and will continue to do so. We have also drawn the close parallel with the Bloody Sunday killings, not least because some of the same soldiers may well have been involved in both.”