How the Campaign started?
In the summer of 1998, many of the families of those murdered in the Ballymurphy Massacre attended a conference organised by Relatives for Justice to discuss the forgotten victims of the troubles. Unknown to each other at the time, the families listened in horror to the discussion as the extent of the Ballymurphy Massacre unfolded. For many years families suffered with their own loss and grief, until now when it emerged that they were not suffering alone.
Following the conference, the families decided to come together to discuss what they knew about this tragedy. Many people were stunned and horrified by the stories that were told.
With limited access to facts and information about the tragedy, and with a deep desire to find the truth, the families of those murdered set about to try and uncover the truth themselves. The main objective of this task was to try and locate as many eye witnesses to the massacre as possible. Given the 27 years that had already passed this was to be a very daunting and tiring exercise.
For the best part of four years family members walked the streets of Ballymurphy and the surrounding West Belfast area. With great effort the families eventually found around 130 eye witnesses. Without deterring from the enormous task, all surviving eye witnesses were interviewed. These interviews were formally scripted and moved to a secure location.
At the same time, research on the events was being carried out using the many different media forms. Public records, inquest papers and photographs were sourced in an effort to complete the story.
Enlightened by the research and eye witness accounts, the families recruited the help of a local solicitor to further their campaign. As a legal representative of the group, the solicitor was able to further the campaign by sourcing relevant and related police and army reports.
Realising the extent of the Massacre and the similarities between the Bloody Sunday atrocity, which occurred only months after this one, the Ballymurphy Massacre families met with the families of those murdered during Bloody Sunday. The Bloody Sunday families not only offered comfort and emotional support, they also provided guidance and direction for an advancing campaign.
The next stage in the campaign saw the families enlist the help and support of Relatives for Justice. Andrea Murphy from Relatives for Justice, along with the families, propelled the campaign to a new high. The campaign was to be known widely known as the Ballymurphy Massacre Campaign.
Supported by Andrea and Relatives for Justice, the families organised a conference in St Mary’s Training College Belfast to tell the story of the massacre according to the eye witnesses. Reinforced by eye witnesses live testimonies, the horror of the massacre was told. This conference catapulted the campaign in to the media spot light.
As a result of the media attention and the ever growing community support, the campaign advanced with even more determination. The families lobbied both the British and Irish government as well as local politicians, elective representatives and political parties on both sides of the community.
The families continued to highlight the tragedy when and where possible, availing of all opportunities. As a result the story has been told throughout Great Britain and parts of Europe. On one particular occasion, the families traveled to Brussels with Sinn Féin and detailed the lobbied the European Parliament.
The families have also lobbied the Catholic Church on the matter. Having met with Bishop Trainor on several occasions the church pledged it’s support to the campaign. The church also, at the request of the families, reviewed it’s archives. The exercise uncovered the diary of the serving bishop at the time of the tragedy which gave a detailed account of the massacre according to eye witnesses interviewed at the time.
Where the Campaign is now?
Over 40 years after the massacre, the campaign grows from strength to strength. The families, along with local support, continue to raise the funds necessary to drive the campaign.
As part of an ever growing agenda, the families have met with the the newly appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson. Following this the families are expected to take their campaign to America where they will tell their story to Congress and highlight the campaign on a world wide stage
At the same time the families await independent findings and analysis on the events. A report which will further validate the families story and strengthen their campaign.
The horrific catalogue of events in Ballymurphy between 9th and 11th August 1971 have remained hidden from public knowledge and focus for over 40 years.
The victims and their families have never received public recognition or legal redress. With a process of transition from conflict to peace now underway and in an effort to put closure of the events, the families demand:
1. Independent international investigation examining the circumstances surrounding all of the deaths
2. The British government to issue a statement of innocence
3. The British government to issue a public apology