Northern Ireland news

Ballymurphy witness describes 'nightmare' of being covered in victim's blood

Catholic priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, was one of 11 people who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971.
Paul Ainsworth

A WITNESS has told the inquest into the 1971 deaths in Ballymurphy how he ended up covered in the blood of a priest who was shot dead, describing the series of events as a "nightmare".

Former youth worker Brian McLaughlin told the hearing in Belfast yesterday that he did not see anyone being shot on August 9 1971, but heard bullets "zinging by" him.

He helped move the body of Fr Hugh Mullan, who died that day along with 19-year-old Francis Quinn.

Describing what happened on the first day of the shootings by members of the Parachute Regiment, which led to the deaths of 11 people, Mr McLaughlin said he helped bring the body of the 38-year-old priest to a nearby house.

"His blood ran down my arms. This has always stuck with me," Mr McLaughlin, now aged 74, said.

He added: "Nightmares, they don't fade that easily."

Relatives of Father Hugh Mullan, one of 11 people killed in what became known as the Ballymurphy Massacre in west Belfast. Picture by Rebecca Black

Speaking of the hail of bullets, Mr McLaughlin told the inquest he believed shots were being fired by the police and the army, along with "the Protestant population" in the neighbouring Springmartin area. He echoed the claims of other witnesses that shots had been aimed into the area from flats in Springmartin.

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Meanwhile, witness Sean Daly told the inquest about events that led to Fr Mullan's death.

Mr Daly, who was shot in the foot, described how he went to the aid of local man Bobby Clarke, who had been hit by a bullet in an area of waste ground. Mr Daly said he offered his own white T-shirt to Fr Mullan to use as a white flag and the priest left before being shot and falling to the ground.

"I was waiting for the final bullet to come my direction," he said after describing how he crawled to nearby long grass to hide.

Witness Michael O'Hara, the nephew of victim Joan Connelly, told the court he had been walking home and spotted paratroopers - one of whom addressed him by name, telling him to "stay off the streets" that night, before the shooting later began.

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