BRITISH SNIPERS KILL FIVE IN WEST BELFAST INCLUDING THREE CHILDREN AND A PRIEST.
9 July 1972 – Soldiers of the British parachute regiment had taken up position behind sandbags in a lumbar yard on the Springhill Estate in West Belfast. They claimed to have been fired upon first, but civilian witnesses asserted that it was the soldiers who opened fire on two cars which had driven into the estate.
According to the residents’ version the soldiers had suddenly started firing when the passengers of the two cars started talking to one another, and they continued to fire into the estate for the next minutes minutes killing Margaret Gargan, a thirteen year old girl, and two youths, David McCafferty, aged fifteen and John Dougal, aged sixteen.
When Patrick Butler, a 39 year old resident, and a catholic priest, Father Noel Fitzpatrick, waving a white flag, attempted to help the dying girl they too were both fatally wounded. Two civilians were also injured in the shooting, one in the back of the head and one in the arm. All those killed or injured were unarmed.
The British army claimed that there had been a heavy exchange of gunfire between the soldiers and the Irish Republican Army and that residents had been caught up in the crossfire. The police, then known as the RUC, later informed an enquiry that they had been unable to conduct an investigation as the estate was too dangerous to enter. However, this conflicted sharply, with a statement from Patrick Butler’s daughter who claimed that the “RUC raided our house every week after he died, ransacked it at four or five in the morning.” Margaret Gargan’s mother later remembered
“I got £68, which didn’t even bury her – the people in the Whiterock [army base] buried her. The army says they done it at the inquest. They tried to say she was a 21-year-old gunman because she had jeans on. There were no apologies or nothing. In fact, I never even got her clothes back.”(1)
ARMOURED CAR RAMS FURNITURE VAN TO PREVENT CATHOLIC FAMILIES MOVING INTO THEIR HOMES
9 July 1972. Approximately one thousand Catholic refugees who had been forced out of their homes had been allocated houses in the mixed Suffolk neighbourhood of Belfast by the Northern Ireland Central Housing Executive. However, when they arrived they found the road blocked by UDA Loyalist militia. They appealed for the army to support them in their legal right to have access to their homes. Their request was denied and to underscore their refusal an armoured car rammed one of the furniture lorries. (2)
BRITISH ARMY’S DOUBLE STANDARDS IN PORTADOWN
9 July 1972 – Eight days prior to the scheduled Orange Day parade in Portadown in which hundreds of marchers wee determined to demonstrate their loyalty to the Union, nervous nationalists had begun to build barricades to protect their homes which were on the scheduled route. Despite appeals from the local population, the police refused to reroute the parade.
In the early hours of 9 July, just hours before the march was to begin, the British army used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the barricades, but the same soldiers refused to intervene when fifty UDA men dressed in full paramilitary uniform escorted the march through the neighbourhood.(3)
- Matthew Francey, “Looking Back on the Unsolved Case of Northern Ireland’s Springhill Massacre,” Vice News, 9 July 2016 accessed online at https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/exk7n4/springhill-massacre-44th-anniversary and Margaret Urwin (2016), “A State of Denial: British Collaboration with Loyalist Paramilitaries,” Mercier Press, Cork, p39.
- Margaret Urwin (2016), “A State of Denial: British Collaboration with Loyalist Paramilitaries,” Mercier Press, Cork, p38-39.
- Anne Cadwallader (2013), “Lethal Allies: British Collusion in Ireland,” Mercier Press, Cork, p21 (?)