Northern Ireland news

Former soldier became 'tearful' over Ballymurphy inquest evidence

Families of victims of the Ballymurphy massacre outside court in Belfast during a previous hearing. Picture by Hugh Russell
Rebecca Black, Press Association

A former paratrooper became tearful when asked about giving evidence on a series of disputed shooting incidents in Belfast in 1971, an inquest has heard.

Two medical witnesses have expressed differing opinions on the fitness of M1011 to give evidence.

Fresh inquests into the killings in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast between August 9 and 11 1971 have been ongoing for more than 10 months.

A priest was among those killed in the shootings, which came amid disturbances across the north following the introduction of the controversial policy of internment.

The inquests have heard evidence of republican gunmen in the area at the time.

There has been no evidence that any of the nine men and one woman killed had been armed or involved in terrorism.

A number of former soldiers from the Parachute Regiment, who were based in the area at the time, have appeared at proceedings at Belfast Coroner's Court.

The inquest heard that M1011 suffers post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Professor Chris Fox, a specialist in clinical psychiatry, told the inquest by videolink that he had interviewed M1011 for an hour over Skype.

He said that early in their interview, M1011 gave an account of some of the events at Ballymurphy, but later in the interview as they discussed potential special measures to assist him giving evidence to the inquest, M1011 became distressed.

"He shook his head, put his head down, and was distressed," Prof Fox told the inquest.

"I did try simple questions... but we didn't make much progress, he would shake his head, the tears would come and he would get anxious."

It was put to Prof Fox that another medical professional, Dr Rashogi had indicated that M1011 could give oral evidence to the inquest but should be considered a vulnerable witness with special measures.

Prof Fox wrote in a report he submitted to the inquest that there were no reasonable measures that could be put in place.

He pointed out it had been several months between when he had interviewed M1011 and when Dr Rashogi had, adding that the ex-soldier's condition may have deteriorated in the interim.

Dr Rashogi will give evidence to the inquest next Tuesday.

Applications for excusals have also been made on behalf of two other former soldiers, M35 and M206.

Mrs Justice Keegan is set to make a ruling on those applications on Tuesday.

Excusal applications on behalf of three civilian witnesses have been granted, while communication is ongoing over a fourth.

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