The British Army is renowned for its exhausting bureaucracy, every form filled out in tripilicate and filed away in offices bunged full of filing cabinets. What a surprise then to discover that the Ministry of Defence has ‘lost’ the personnel records identifying the soldiers involved in the Ballymurphy massacre of August 1971, when British paratroopers gunned down eleven civilians.
In this important article in the current edition of An Phoblacht, the SF paper’s editor John Hedges discloses that not only have these vital records gone AWOL but a member of the inquest staff has been re-assigned to another post, meaning that his learned knowledge has gone with him. Meanwhile the coroner’s office has been told by the PSNI that the resources available for historical inquiries are ‘finite’, a veiled warning that money may be cut off to the Ballymurphy investigation.
All this is in sharp contrast to the resources and effort put into the Boston College archive case by the PSNI. Millions have been spent on legal cases and despite questionable evidence, the prosecuting authorities seem determined to push ahead with a court case.
When it comes to historical cases, it seems there are victims and then there are victims.
Here is the full text of the AP story:
Soldiers responsible for Ballymurphy Massacre cannot be traced, claims ministry – Taoiseach urged to act
THE Ministry of Defence claims that it cannot find any records identifying the soldiers involved in the Ballymurphy Massacre in the three days after internment in August 1971 when 11 civilians (including a Catholic priest) were shot dead by British Army paratroopers.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD – a former MP for Ballymurphy in west Belfast – says that, in light of the recent all-party motion passed by the Dáil supporting the Ballymurphy families, this deserves the urgent attention of the Taoiseach.
In March, Taoiseach Enda Kenny met the Ballymurphy families and reiterated the Irish Government’s support for the families’ quest for the truth and for justice regarding the deaths of their loved ones, including their proposal for an Independent Panel of Inquiry.
Expressing his “deep concern and anger at the failure of the British Government to progress the Ballymurphy case”, Gerry Adams said he has been given a copy of a letter sent from the Crown Solicitor’s Office to the Coroners’ Service in Belfast which reveals that “serious hurdles have been erected by the British state to the families getting to the truth of events in Ballymurphy in August 1971”.
The letter also confirms that the member of staff assigned to Ballymurphy has been reassigned to another inquest.
It reveals that the British MoD “has not been able to uncover any records within its control regarding the original cipher list [British Army personnel record] at Ballymurphy in 1971 . . . MoD has not as yet been successful in tracing any ciphered soldiers involved in Ballymurphy”.
Additionally, it also notes that the PSNI has previously advised the Coroner that “the resources which the Chief Constable can commit to servicing the legacy inquest process are finite”.
Gerry Adams says:
“This is an unacceptable situation. It is clear evidence that the British Government and system is not dealing with Ballymurphy in a manner and a timescale that meets international human rights standards.”
“The deliberate withholding of resources and the failure to speedily identify the soldiers present in Ballymurphy is evidence of a British Government and MoD deliberately frustrating the families efforts.”
He said the Irish Government has a responsibility and a mandate from the Dáil to challenge the British Prime Minister and Government on the way it which it is dealing with the Ballymurphy families and with this case.
“It needs to adopt a more robust and assertive approach to ensure that the British Government allocates the necessary resources to the Ballymurphy Massacre case.
“I have therefore asked the Taoiseach if he will raise these concerns with British Prime Minister David Cameron; instruct the Minister for Foreign Affairs to also raise this with the British Secretary of State; and seek from the British Government a commitment to allocate the necessary financial and personnel resources to the Ballymurphy Massacre case.”