Guests of the Troops out Movement
In the build up to the 36th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry, two daughters of the Ballymurphy 11 were speaking in England calling for an Independent International Inquiry into the slaughter of their relatives and nine others by British soldiers in 1971.
Alice Harper and Briege Voyle were in six English cities as guests of the Troops Out Movement, the English based organisation which campaigns for British withdrawal from Ireland. 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, 6 months later, to murder fourteen civilian demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in Derry. Alice Harper is the daughter of Daniel Teggart, father of eight, murdered on 9th August. He was shot 14 times. Briege Voyle is the daughter of Joan Connolly, who also died on the 9th August, mother of eight, 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 3 days in their own area.
Members of the Troops Out Movement heard the relatives of all eleven victims tell their stories in August last year whilst on their annual delegation to Belfast. The movement then pledged support for the relative’s demands.
• An Independent International Public Inquiry
• A statement of the innocence of those killed
• A public apology from those responsible
Briege and Alice made clear “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 eleven 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 treated before and after death. It was evidence of the British soldier’s - and therefore the British government’s - abject contempt for the nationalist community of the six counties.
Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo detainee was also on the platform. He compared the Irish people’s experience with the current experience of the Muslim community in Britain. They too 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, spoke pointing 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 was a responsibility on everyone there and everyone who knew about the Ballymurphy massacre to raise the issue in communities, trades unions and with the political parties and representatives.
The Birmingham meeting had the added dimension of Louise Kilbride, from the Telling Tales Theatre Group. She sang songs from their play “Stepping Out of Line” about the murder of Patrick Shanaghan by loyalists, with security force collusion.
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 would 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 Fein MLA for West Belfast.
The Troops Out Movement would like to thank Alice and Briege for their wonderful and moving presentations during the speaking tour, all the Ballymurphy 11 relatives for allowing their stories to be told and Relatives for Justice for their support in enabling the tour to go ahead. We would also like to thank everyone in England who supported the tour and gave donations towards expenses.