Judge told widow of Ballymurphy massacre victim she was ‘better off’ after British army shot her husband dead
John Teggart, the son of Danny Teggart, reacts after the findings of the Ballymurphy Inquest were released by the coroner at the Waterfront Hall on May 11 in Belfast. Photo: Getty
May 26 2021 02:30 AM
A judge told a widow who attempted a civil case after the Ballymurphy massacre that she was “better off” as a result of the British Army killing her husband, it was claimed yesterday.
John Teggart said his mother was told she had “one less mouth to feed” as a result.
His father, Danny Teggart, was one of 10 unarmed civilians shot dead in the west Belfast suburb in August 1971, with another dying of a heart attack after having a gun shoved in their mouth.
John Teggart told a Dáil Committee his mother had attempted a civil case at a very early stage and was told from the bench that she had “one less mouth to feed” and was therefore better off.
“That’s the kind of judges there were at the time,” he said.
He was 11 years old at the time. “I would have heard my mummy crying at night time. There were 13 of us and we were split up as a mechanism of coping and sharing the pain.
“Bloody Sunday would not have happened if Ballymurphy soldiers had been brought to justice. After Ballymurphy, paratroopers believed they’d get away with anything…and they were right.
“If we had had a proper investigation, if soldiers at one of these massacres were properly investigated, how many peoples’ lives would that have saved?” Mr Teggart asked.
“If the courts had been more sympathetic to the families, without taking the word of the army, things would have been different.”
He pointed to Bloody Sunday as one example, when 14 civilians were shot dead in Derry.
Carmel Quinn, sister of John Laverty, said on the morning her brother was killed, another brother disappeared, having been arrested with nobody telling the family.
She was eight years old when her brother, who 12 years older, was shot dead by the soldiers, she said.
There were night raids on the homes of the bereaved as part of an effort to paint them as militant Republicans, she said.
“The army targeted the homes of the people who were murdered with nightly raids.
“It was just another way to keep the families down,” Ms Quinn said. “My mummy was not the same person after that. It has had an awful impact on my life. I am very conscious where my children are all the time, and they are adults now.
“Not only did they murder my brother, but they destroyed my family.
“I watched my mother slowing down. My father died at 61 from a broken heart.”
Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey said five civilians were killed by the security forces less than a year later in Springhill, adjoining Ballymurphy, which was often known as the “forgotten massacre”.
He called for a visit to both sites by members of the committee for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement when Covid-19 conditions allowed.
The families have been successful in correcting history, Mr Teggart said “and we would hope that the same help would be available to others”.
Pádraig Ó Muirigh, solicitor for the families, said they would legally resist Boris Johnson’s government introducing a blanket amnesty for crimes committed during the Troubles, and would take their case “to Europe if necessary”.
Between August 9 and 11, 1971, more than 600 British soldiers entered Ballymurphy, raiding homes and rounding up men. In the raids, in the aftermath of internment, 11 people died, 10 shot by the Parachute Regiment and one who died of a heart attack when a gun was put in their mouth.
One of the victims was a Catholic priest and another the mother of eight children.
Almost all were shot in the back.