Northern Ireland

Mother tells Ballymurphy inquest how Army bullets narrowly missed her children

Ballymurphy relatives on the way out of court on the final day of scheduled evidence. Picture by Hugh Russell
Ballymurphy relatives on the way out of court on the final day of scheduled evidence. Picture by Hugh Russell

A WOMAN told the Ballymurphy inquest yesterday how her two young children were almost killed after their flat came under fire from bullets fired by the British army.

Anne-Marie Young, who lived at Moyard flats, was not able to give evidence in person due to medical reasons.

But two statements, made by her in March and October this year, were read out to Belfast Coroner's Court.

Hers was the final scheduled day of evidence following almost 100 days of hearings.

The inquest into the deaths of 10 people shot in west Belfast in August 1971, opened on November 11 last year.

Mrs Young described how she and her now ex-husband Geordie had to crawl on their hands and knees to pull their children's cots out of a bedroom after it was riddled by crossfire.

She said dozens of bullets passed just inches above her children's heads.

At the time, the couple lived with their children George (3) and 18-month-old Anne-Marie in a flat close to the Henry Taggart Hall, which was then occupied by B Company 2 Para of the Parachute Regiment.

She said the children's bedroom directly overlooked sangars at the base.

Mrs Young said that following the shooting the children had pieces of wood in their hair, which had come from their shattered cots.

"It is miracle that neither of our children were killed," she said in her evidence.

Photographs from the time showed bullet holes in the wall, and in the cots.

Mrs Young also recalled Fr Hugh Mullan, who was killed that same day, calling to their house to bless it.

Later that day as the family were leaving their home, after it was deemed too dangerous to stay. She remembered seeing a white handkerchief being waved in a field.

She later found out that Fr Hugh Mullan had been shot dead. Previous hearings were told Fr Mullan had reportedly waved a white handkerchief as he helped victims near Springfield Park.

Mrs Young said she was "absolutely certain" there was nobody with guns in Moyard flats or the Springfield Park area.

She also said there was no gunman in her flat and no blood or signs of blood.

She believed soldiers were shooting at her flat from two different directions. The inquest previously head that both groups of soldiers believed they were returning fire at IRA gunmen.

Mrs Young said she and her family were unable to return to their home as it was "destroyed".

The court also heard statements were being prepared from at least three more former soldiers, and it is possible more evidence might be heard from them at a later date.

On Monday, two former soldiers, identified only as M57 and M171, failed to appear to give evidence for a second time.

The coroner told the court she does not have the power to compel them to appear as both men live in the UK but outside Northern Ireland.

Final oral submissions will be heard in December before Mrs Justice Keegan delivers her findings.