Northern Ireland news

Judge: prioritise inquest of Joseph Parker, shot dead by British army in 1971

Joseph Parker (25) was killed when soldiers opened fire at a community centre in Ardoyne during a disco in 1971
Michael McHugh, Press Association

AN INQUEST into the death of a man shot by the British army at a Christmas dance in north Belfast should be prioritised, a judge said.

Joseph Parker (25), a married father-of-one whose wife was expecting the couple's second child when he died, was killed in disputed circumstances when soldiers opened fire at a community centre in Ardoyne during a disco in 1971.

The episode unfolded when troops entered Toby's Hall, which no longer exists, claiming to be searching for a suspect.

Mr Justice Colton told a preliminary inquest in Belfast: "I am not interested in an inquest into what has happened since Justice Weir's review [last year].

"I understand that a lot of cases went stale.

"This case has to be given priority. I intend to list it towards October or November."

The night of Mr Parker's death confrontations had ensued at the hall and soldiers said they fired a series of shots into the roof and walls amid concerns for their safety - claims which were disputed by witnesses.

Mr Parker, from Eskdale Gardens in Ardoyne, who moments earlier had been dancing with his sister, was shot in both thighs. He died two days later.

Barrister to the coroner Ronan Daly said every effort was being made to trace witnesses.

A total of 17 are dead and no trace has been found of some others.

The inquest could take up to four weeks to hear.

It will sit without a jury.

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