By Mark Buckley
Relatives of the Ballymurphy Massacre have been stunned hearing the Inquest testimony of soldiers responsible for the deaths of their loved ones, as they related their part in the murders of eleven unarmed civilians at the hands of members of the Parachute regiment in 1971.
The revelations include the soldiers running a sweepstake paid out to whoever killed civilians, that part of one victim’s skull was used as an ashtray, that the soldiers were ‘out of control’, and yet claims from some of the soldiers they showed great restraint because there had been a protest outside their army base.
Like Bloody Sunday in Derry six months later, the massacre in the Ballymurphy estate was carried out by the members of the Parachute regiment. In both cases the British army has long falsely claimed that they were fired on first. No proper evidence has been offered for the claims in either case, and no evidence has ever been provided linking any of those murdered to arms, explosives or even any criminal activity.
In Ireland it is widely believed that the Paras were later deployed in Derry because they had already been ‘blooded’ in the massacre of civilians at Ballymurphy.
The mainstream media in Britain has covered up the revelations at the Inquest by refusing to report them. That has been left to the regional outfits, BBC NI and Ulster TV to provide low-key and distorted coverage. The Inquest has, though received widespread in the Republic. But, with the honourable exception of the Morning Star, the media in Britain has been silent.
This arises at a time when just one soldier faces long-delayed prosecution for his part in the Bloody Sunday murders, thirty-seven years after the event. There is a gross injustice that only ‘Soldier F’ faces prosecution, and not the numerous soldiers who fired on and killed civilians. Crucially, the commanding officers who planned and led the atrocity will escape any justice.
There is strong pressure from within the armed forces, both serving and retired that even this prosecution should be dropped. Euphemisms about ‘morale’ and ‘loyalty’ are designed to disguise the imperative to maintain the type of discipline that will carry out orders to murder unarmed civilians.
Leading Tory politicians are vying with each other as the champion of measures to place British armed services personnel above the law. The Northern Ireland Secretary has even claimed that none of the murders carried out by the British security services in Ireland were a crime. The supposed legal concession that the exemption for soldiers only comes into force after ten years is a fiction, given how many years have elapsed prior to ‘Soldier F’s prosecution.
The comments from Labour’s Shadow Defence secretary supporting an amnesty for British soldiers run contrary to international law and do not in any way reflect the politics of Jeremy Corbyn, who has always supported peace and justice in Ireland.
The United Nations opposes any amnesty and has instead called for a full independent inquiry into the murders and torture committed by security services in Ireland. Labour can support this call. Its policies and comments from senior figures should support those principles, not amnesties for murders.