As many readers will know, I have often referenced the Ballymurphy Massacre on this Blog.
I saw that …or more accurately, I saw some of it take place before my eyes. I wont forget him. But what really gets under my skin is that it (and indeed other incidents) changed my attitude to life. Nothing has the right to change who I am.
For the record, other incidents include McGurks Bar, Bloody Sunday, Claudy Massacre, Bloody Friday.
Immediately before Ballymurphy, a man from South Armagh, Henry Thornton was shot dead on Springfield Road Mr Thornton was shot dead by a Paratrooper who alleged that the car in which Mr Thornton was travelling had backfired.
Much is of course lost in the fog of war. What cant be lost is that FORTY FIVE YEARS after Mr Thornton was killed, the identity of his killer was publicly identified as Sgt Allan McVittie.
Nor can it be lost that the Parachute Regiment terrorised the people of West Belfast in the later part of 1971. They frightened me…and almost five decades that still hurts. For me, it was not much more than petty insults and indeed I was almost as afraid of other regiments.
The Paras, Black Watch, the Inglorious Gloucesters, the Green Cowards were to be frank ….bastards. In the days before cell phones and 24 Hour media, their deeds go unrecorded. Except of course in their own “regimental” history.
Some say that the prosecution of soldiers after so long is wrong. It is too long ago. Justice delayed is Justice denied. But it is not just nationalists in West Belfast who talk about the past. Conservative MP, “Colonel” Bob Stewart “DSO” (for services in the Balkans….a British hero says he was a “kind of torturer in Northern Ireland”.
Some say it was wrong to name Sgt McVittie as Mr Thorntons killer. Mr McVittie died in 2007. I have no sympathy for this view.
My dad knew the guy that was in the passenger seat. Said Thornton’s head was blown clean off and that dumb dumb bullets must have been used. He also said the army gave the passenger a hard time after the incident, verbally abusing him and holding him at checkpoints. The British are complaining because a funny handshake doesn’t get things swept under the carpet as effectively anymore though I’d warrant plenty of it abounds still.
They were total bastards.
The thing I cant get over is that people who suffered a lot are much more forgiving than me…just the odd petty verbalising and provocation.
True but when is there ever a spontaneous drive from the perpetrators to “participate” in the justice process.
The ‘petty insults’ – “Irish Paddy bastard”, were still being hurled from the Butcher’s Gate watchtower in Derry, much later than 1971. I was on the receiving end as late as 2004/2005. Made for a pleasant walk home from work!
I think the worst thing….in terms of pettiness was being made to take my shoes off in the rain. And just standing there for about five minutes.
That was about 1972 and the bastard was about same age as me. Somewhere in England there is a 64 year old man telling the same story….unless he is roasting in Hell already.