7 February 2008 Edition
'Ballymurphy 11' women speak in England
TWO daughters of the Ballymurphy 11, Alice Harper and Briege Voyle, were speaking in six English cities last week to build support for an independent international investigation into the slaughter of their relatives and nine others by British soldiers in 1971. The speaking tour was hosted by the Troops Out Movement.
The Ballymurphy 11 were murdered during the first three days of internment by the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment. This same regiment went on, six months later, to murder 14 civilian demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in Derry. Alice Harper is the daughter of Daniel Teggart, a father of eight who was murdered on 9 August. He was shot 14 times. Briege Voyle is the daughter of Joan Connolly, who also died on 9 August, a mother of eight who was shot whilst helping another victim, Noel Phillips, aged 19.
No one was ever brought to justice for murdering the Ballymurphy 11 and they have never had the focus of the Bloody Sunday victims. The Bloody Sunday victims were shot within 40 minutes in full view of the world’s media. The Ballymurphy victims were killed over three days in their own area. The families have now come together to demand justice.
Members of the Troops Out Movement (TOM) heard the relatives of all 11 victims tell their stories in August last year while on their annual delegation to Belfast. They resolved to do something practical and useful and, as a result, organised the speaking tour to help publicise the cause of the Ballymurphy 11.
Briege and Alice made it clear what they and the other relatives want: “We want truth and justice, not vengeance and revenge.”
The tour started in the north-west with Alice speaking in Liverpool and Manchester. The Liverpool meeting was hosted by the James Larkin Republican Flute Band. Audiences were seriously moved by Alice’s story. On Wednesday, she was joined in Nottingham by Briege Voyle, adding breadth to the story. At every meeting they made sure the audience knew the details of all 11 killings. They also showed an exhibition of dramatic black and white photographs, taken by Jonathan Porter, of members of each family holding a portrait of their murdered loved one in their own homes or at the place the person was killed.
The next three days were spent in Birmingham and Coventry. At the public meeting in Birmingham’s Council House, Alice and Briege were joined by Cahil McElhinney, brother of Kevin, who was murdered by the same British paratroopers in Derry on Bloody Sunday. He drew the direct parallels between the Ballymurphy 11 and the Bloody Sunday victims. All were innocent civilians, murdered in cold blood but branded as gunners and bombers. All were violently mistreated before and after death. It was evidence of the British soldiers’ – and therefore the British Government’s – abject contempt for the nationalist community of the Six Counties.
Also on the platform was Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee. He drew the parallels of the Irish people’s experience with the current experience of the Muslim community in Britain. They also are labelled as suspect terrorists by the Establishment in Britain.
Moazzam said how pleased he was to be at the meeting with Cahil as he had opened the Bloody Sunday Museum in Derry with Cahil’s father, Laurence McElhinney, who is sadly the only surviving parent of the Bloody Sunday victims.
Mary Pearson, secretary of the Troops Out Movement, pointed out that both atrocities were carried out in the name of the people of Britain, who had in fact paid the wages of the “soldier murderers”. She said that there is a responsibility on everyone there and everyone who knows about the Ballymurphy massacre to raise the issue in communities, trades unions and with the political parties and representatives.
Also in Birmingham, Alice and Briege met with a number of community representatives, members at the Central Mosque, workers from the Federation of Irish Societies, a representative from Birmingham’s Irish Community Forum, and people at the Unity FM Community Radio, where they did an hour-long live programme. The Coventry Trade Union Council also held a meeting with members of various trade unions and former MEP and human rights activist Christine Oddy. The Transport and General Workers’ Union opened its facilities and provided refreshments. Everyone who met Briege and Alice said they will do everything in their power to take the issue further.
The tour culminated on Sunday at the annual Bloody Sunday event in London organised by the Wolfe Tone Society. Again they were joined on the platform by Cahil McElhinney and also by Jennifer McCann, Sinn Féin MLA for West Belfast.
The relatives of the Ballymurphy 11 want:–
• An independent, international investigation
• A statement of the innocence of those killed
• A public apology from those responsible