Northern Ireland news

Ballymurphy inquest hears of priest's `very heavily bloodstained vest'

Patsy Mullen brother of Fr Mullen and Liam Quinn brother of Frank with families of Ballymurphy Massacre outside court Picture by Hugh Russell.

STATEMENTS made to the original inquests into the 1971 deaths of two of the 10 people killed over three days in Ballymurphy, west Belfast were "read into evidence" at Laganside courthouse yesterday.

Barrister David Heraghty for the Coroners Service for Northern Ireland read out the depositions of 10 witnesses as part of preliminary evidence into the deaths of 19-year-old Francis Quinn and Fr Hugh Mullan (38).

Coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan heard the testimony of Mr Quinn's father, Thomas, and mother-in-law Jane McMenamin, who both formally identified his body at Belfast mortuary, then located at Laganbank Road.

Thomas Quinn had recalled how he "last saw him alive on Saturday evening at 4.45pm down on King Street".

"He said he would see me on Sunday (but) he did not get up"

Mrs McMenamin told how the young window cleaner's pregnant widow and their infant child were now living with her.

Fr Francis Harper of St John's Presbytery had recounted attending the morgue on "the afternoon of August 10 1971" alongside parish priest Fr Pat Murphy and curate Fr Gerard McCall to identify Fr Mullan's remains.

He had told the original inquest of Fr Mullan receiving "a call between 8.30pm and 9pm of an injured man in Moyard estate and left on clerical duties to attend to this man".

"That was the last time he was seen alive".

Among the other witness statements was that of RUC Constable Alan McCrum who was tasked with taking "swabs of the right and left hands of the body of Frank Quinn" and the same from the priest, to be sent to the Department of Industrial and Forensic Science.

He also detailed the clothing that had been removed from both deceased, including Fr Mullan's "white cotton vest - very heavily bloodstained".

After the evidence concluded the families met Sinn Féin leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill, who both paid tribute to their "brave and courageous" long battle for a fresh inquiry.

"They shouldn't have has to campaign, that they are here now is a personal testament," Ms O'Neill said, adding "one mummy's pain is the same as another's".

"These families deserve to have this inquest, like other families (and) we stand full square with them today."

Ms McDonald said she hoped the inquest will "tell the world the whole truth about their loved ones".

She added that the party has written again to the secretary of state demanding that funding be released for legacy inquests.

"No leader, nobody who claims any regard for the upholding of the law or value of democracy could stand over such a situation, where family are left for decades without the right of an inquest."

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