by Mary Pearson
THE BALLYMURPHY 11 were murdered during the first three days of internment, by the 2nd battalion of the British army's Parachute Regiment. This same regiment went on, six months later, to murder fourteen civilian demonstrators on Bloody Sunday in Derry.
Two daughters of the Ballymurphy 11 were in Birmingham and Coventry for International Women's Day events from Thur 5 - 8 March. They were the guests of Coventry Trade Union Council and the Troops Out Movement.
Alice Harper is the daughter of Daniel Teggart, father of thirteen, murdered on 9 August. He was shot 14 times. Briege Voyle is the daughter of Joan Connolly, who was also murdered on the 9 August. She was the mother of eight, shot whilst helping another victim Noel Phillips aged 19. All the victims were labelled by the British army as terrorists with guns. There is not a scrap of evidence to support this. All of the victims were unarmed civilians and the relatives want truth and justice, not vengeance.
The first engagement for the guests was with the Birmingham Trade Union Council. They were the main speakers at the monthly delegates meeting. A serious debate followed their talk. The council was very sympathetic and will be writing to Shaun Woodward supporting the campaign's demands:
- An independent international public investigation
- A statement of the innocence of those killed
- A public apology from those responsible
On Friday they did a recorded interview on Unity Radio 82.5FM, http://www.unityfm.net/ a Birmingham community radio. The evening was spent as guests at Birmingham's meeting of Britain Palestine Twinning Network Women's Visit.
The main speakers were Palestinian women Zahida Farakhnah and Nagham Madi. The discussion and contributions brought out the similarities between the struggles for a free Palestine and a free Ireland.
Although the scale is far greater in Palestine the issues are identical in both examples of colonisation - cold blooded killings by state forces, walls being built to separate communities, roadblocks and check points, arbitrary arrests, serious consequences of children & youths stone throwing, disproportionate number of prisoners, holding without trial and excessive sentencing.
Saturday was a very full day. It began at the launch of Coventry's Women's Festival where, at a non-political event, they were given a platform to speak just before the Irish Dancers. They had an amazing reception with many coming up afterwards to give hugs and ask for the information leaflets.
They then went onto a special meeting of Coventry Trades Union Council called in honour of the Ballymurphy 11. This was as a result of their delegate hearing the story of the Ballymurphy Massacre during the Troops Out Movement's annual delegation to Belfast. A very wide-ranging discussion ensued and commitments were made by the trade unionists to take up the campaign and do everything possible in support.
Next stop was the International Women's Day event at Birmingham's Drum, Black Arts Centre. Alice and Briege were welcomed alongside a Palestinian women's delegation from Gaza, a progressive Jewish/anti-Zionist voice and speakers on black women's history. We have since received a thank you letter from the organisers saying that many had said they learned so much and that the discussion was excellent.
The final event on Saturday was a dinner and musical entertainment in support of Music for Hope, a Birmingham based charity which provides communities in El Salvador with musical instruments and pays the salaries of five music teachers. Alice & Briege were the interval speakers. Again they received a tremendous reception with pledges to support the campaign. Sunday 8 March, International Women's Day itself, saw Alice and Briege at an informal lunch time get together of local Birmingham activists. It gave the opportunity to discuss in more detail the specifics of the Ballymurphy case and what the Troops Out Movement and others can do to support the relatives and take the campaign forward. Emphasis was put on pressurising Shaun Woodward, secretary of state for Northern Ireland to have an independent, international, investigation into the case as a British government inquiry would not be independent.
Relatives are certain that an independent investigation would lead to the victims of the massacre being declared innocent, not gunmen/woman, and an apology would have to be forthcoming. There were also proposals to put pressure on Bob Ainsworth, the armed forces minister to make his department's papers available to relatives. Someone in the army and government knows what happened. It was also agreed to lobby MPs to support the call for an investigation by letter writing and lobbying their surgeries.
The main success of the speaking tour was that the message of the Ballymurphy Massacre Campaign was heard by people who would not normally come out to hear speakers about Britain's role in Ireland. New audiences were informed and new support won.
The Troops Out Movement would like to thank Alice and Briege for their wonderful and moving presentations and all the Ballymurphy 11 relatives for allowing their stories to be told. We would also like to thank Coventry Trades Council for initiating the speaking tour, everyone in Birmingham and Coventry who gave the women a platform and those who gave donations towards the expenses.
The Troops Out Movement can be contacted through their website at www.troopsoutmovement.com
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2009 Mary Pearson