[ 9 August 1971 ]

On this day in 1971, six civilians varying in age from 19 to 50 years, including Father Hugh Mullan, a Catholic priest who was trying to help a wounded man and Joan Connolly, a 45 year old grandmother, were shot dead in West Belfast by soldiers of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment during a mass round up of Catholic men on the Ballymurphy estate.

Several witnesses claim that one of the victims, 20 year old Noel Phillips was executed by soldiers with a handgun shot to the head, as he lay wounded and helpless in the street. Five more men were shot dead over the next forty eight hours. The same battalion was also later implicated in the January 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre of  protesters in Derry.[1]


9 August 1971 – Hundreds of British soldiers were deployed across Northern Ireland to arrest 342 Catholics and two protestants with Republican sympathies under new powers of “internment without trial.”[2] They kicked down doors and dragged men of all ages from their beds. Only Catholic areas were targeted. The British government saw no equivalent need to target suspect loyalist paramilitaries and the vast majority of those from the Catholic community arrested were not guilty of any serious crime.

Those who were guilty of acts of brutal violence against British soldiers or protestant civilians, had mostly already fled south across the border and the mass arrest of so many without credible evidence of any crime proved to be a serious propaganda victory for the IRA which won them many new recruits.

What was worse, however, was that the Royal Ulster Constabulary deployed five methods of torture, both psychological and physical, which it termed “highly coercive interrogation” or “interrogation in depth.”  The aim was to destroy the prisoners mentally. This meant hooding, hours of wall-standing, subjection to extreme “white noise”, sleep deprivation and the withholding of food and drink. A Sunday Times investigation highlighted “white noise” in particular which it found “literally drove [people] out of their minds.” [3]


9 August 1919 – After six months of secret negotiations between Percy Cox, the British Minister in Tehran, and Vusuq ul-Dawleh, the Persian Prime Minister, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Prince Farooz and his finance minister, Sarem ul-Dawleh, the Anglo-Persian Agreement was announced.

If it had been ratified by the Persian parliament it would have represented a huge victory for British imperial ambition. Persia was to be granted what amounted to a mere protectorate status. The accord guaranteed British access to Persian oil fields while the British were to take over all military and financial institutions.

The British had given the three nobles a generous advance on a promised loan worth £130,000 with which they which they were expected to bribe potential opponents and should the country be too outraged,  they were promised they would be granted asylum.  When Persians read about the contents of the treaty, they immediately knew that the three ministers had tried to sell their country to the British.  Opposition quickly escalated. Vusuq ul-Dawleh who tried vainly to quell the protests was toppled from power and the agreement was never ratified.  Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, was furious and contemplated vengeance.

“These people  have got to be taught,” he wrote, “at whatever cost to them, that they cannot get on without us. I don’t at all mind their noses being rubbed in the dust.”[4]



  1. Sofia Petkar, “Troubles Tragedy: What happened in the Ballymurphy Massacre of 1971 and how many people were killed in Belfast’s Bloody Sunday,” the Sun, 8 September 2018 and Robert Verkaik, “Ballymurphy: What really happened in Northern Ireland’s hidden massacre ?” I News, 6 September 2018 accessed online at https://inews.co.uk/news/long-reads/ballymurphy-massacre-belfast-northern-ireland-troubles-bloody-sunday/
  2. Margaret Urwin (2016), “A State in Denial: British Collaboration with Loyalist Paramilitaries,” Mercier Press, Cork p29
  3. Richard J. Aldrich and Rory Cormac (2018), “The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers,” William Collins, London p 293-294.
  4. Quoted in Christopher De Bellaigue (2013)”Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coup,” Vintage Books, London p53

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