29 January 2009 Edition

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Tree Planting ceremony in remembrance of British Army massacre

A TREE planting ceremony in remembrance of the massacre of 11 civilians by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in 1971  took place at the Ballymurphy Memorial Garden in West Belfast on Sunday, 25 January.
Addressing the event, Clara Reilly of Relatives for Justice said:
“Those of us, who attended an event during the Féile in West Belfast in 2007 concerning the 1971 Internment killings when 11 people were massacred, came away from that event shocked, stunned and very angry that such an atrocity had been allowed to happen and was perpetrated by those tasked with upholding law and order.
“These killings have often been referred to as the forgotten massacre, but to the families left behind, they didn’t forget. For over 35 years they carried their pain and grief deep within their hearts, but their thirst for the truth to be told and for recognition and acknowledgement, is one of the reasons we are all here today.
“These families along with the Springhill Massacre families have had their lives devastated by state violence, cover-ups, and lies. They have seen their loved ones killed with impunity and with no proper police investigations. They themselves became targets of harassment because they dared to challenge the state’s version of events. Some of the families have suffered multiple traumas with the loss of other members of their family due to the conflict. No one who listened to their personal testimony during that Féile event and marvelled at their dignity and respectful memories of their loved ones could fail to be deeply impressed and supportive. These families here are the first to acknowledge that every single family who lost a member as a result of the conflict, regardless of their religion, politics, or background feel the same hurt and pain of that loss. Everyone must be remembered equally and their relatives treated equally and with respect and compassion. There must be no hierarchy of victims.

“On the 9th July 1972, five people, two of them children and one a priest, were killed in what became known as the Springhill Massacre, several more people were injured. Local people believe that the fatal shots were fired from Barry’s Timber Yard where the British Army had observation posts. Yet like the Ballymurphy killings in 1971 and the Bloody Sunday killings in Derry in 1972, no one was ever arrested or charged in connection with the Springhill killings. The British Army version of events does not match the facts contained in the booklet The Springhill Massacre published in 1999 to coincide with an event during the Féile week, when witnesses spoke, many for the first time about the terrible events of that day. These families – like the Ballymurphy Families – demand the truth be told and acknowledgement be made about the innocence of their loved ones.
“Today we pledge our support to all these families here present and we, like them, hope to see a process emerge whereby all those affected by the conflict have the opportunity to deal with their loss in a manner that is beneficial both to them personally and also contributes to stabilising our collective future and embedding a culture of human rights and equality. I am delighted to be here today to support the families in the planting of these trees, each in memory of a loved one killed.
“This is a beautiful positive symbol of remembrance, of growth, of strength and of new life. It sends out a clear message that they will never be forgotten, as that would be the worst offence to their memory.”

 • Families of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims gather to lay wreaths before the tree planting ceremony

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