1970-1979 | Civilians slaughtered | Northern Ireland

Six, including priest, shot dead by British troops in West Belfast

Ballymurphy massacre families campaign for justice –
Sinn Fein – CC License – via Flickr

9 August 1971

On 9 August 1971, six civilians ranging in age from 19 to 50 years, including Hugh Mullan, a Catholic priest, and Joan Connolly, a 45 year old grandmother, were shot dead in West Belfast by soldiers of the Parachute Regiment during a mass round up of Catholic men on the Ballymurphy estate. Four more civilians were fatally shot over the next thirty six hours. None of the ten victims were found to have been carrying any weapon. Six months later, soldiers of the same regiment were implicated in the Bloody Sunday massacre of protesters in Derry.

The Ballymurphy killings occurred after six hundred paras descended on the estate, refusing to allow anyone to leave, kicking down doors and forcing eighteen suspects into a community hall where they were beaten before being transferred for interrogation. Around a hundred local residents soon gathered near the hall to protest,  a few youths threw stones and soldiers fired several shots as the crowd momentarily surged towards them.1

The first injury occurred at 8.30 pm, when local resident Bobby Clarke was wounded as he attempted to help children escape the area. Shortly afterwards, Father Hugh Mullan phoned the local army base to inform them that he was going to give the injured man his last rights, and then proceeded out into the open waving a white cloth.  On discovering that Clarke was not fatally wounded, Mullan attempted to return, only to be mortally wounded by a bullet. A 19 year old, Frank Quinn, broke cover to try to help Mullan and was fatally shot in the the head. Later, as locals gathered afterwards in a street within sight of the community hall, the army fired again, wounding Noel Phillips, also just 19. It was at that point that Joan Connolly tried to help, shouting ‘it’s alright son, I’m coming to you,’ but she was seriously injured by a bullet which struck her in the face.

British troops then executed Phillips with a handgun as he lay wounded and helpless, but they left Connolly who cried out for help for several hours.  She was only finally picked up by soldiers at 2.30 am the following morning. An autopsy report later showed that she had bled to death.2  One paratrooper later revealed how several soldiers, believing they enjoyed complete impunity, congratulated each other on what had happened and another admitted that some had competed for a cash prize for whoever could get the most confirmed kills.3

[ The following day, 10 August, another innocent civilian was shot dead at Ballymurphy and on 11 August three more were gunned down, while another died from a heart attack after being subjected to a mock execution. For their names and further details please refer to 11 August 1971 ]


  1. Ian Cobain, ‘Ballymurphy Shootings: 36 hours that left 10 dead,’ The Guardian, 26 June 2014 accessed online at url https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jun/26/-sp-ballymurphy-shootings-36-hours-west-belfast-northern-ireland-10-dead 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 accessed online at url https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7208655/ballymurphy-massacre-1971-belfast-bloody-sunday/ 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. Will Leitch, ‘Ballymurphy inquest: Joan Connolly “could have lived,”‘ BBC News, 14 May 2019 accessed at url https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-48273920 Brónach Ní Thuama, ‘Priest was cut down going to aid of others,’ Belfast Media Group, 27 August 2018 accessed at url http://belfastmediagroup.com/priest-was-cut-down-going-to-aid-of-others/ and ‘The Massacre,’ accessed at url http://www.ballymurphymassacre.com/cms/massacre/
  3. ‘Some soldiers at Ballymurphy like ‘psychopaths’, ex-paratrooper says, The Irish Times, 13 May 1919, accessed at url https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/some-soldiers-at-ballymurphy-like-psychopaths-ex-paratrooper-says-1.3890754 and ‘Ballymurphy Massacre Inquest,’ The Morning Star, 9 May 2019 accessed at url https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/ballymurphy-soldiers-competed-kills-win-cash-prize-inquest-hears

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