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Ballymurphy: Former paratrooper says soldiers 'were out of control'

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An inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people killed in shootings at Ballymurphy in August 1971
A former paratrooper has broken down in tears at an inquest into the deaths of 10 people in 1971, saying "rogue soldiers" were "out of control" and "shot innocent people".The inquest is looking into shootings from 9-11 August, amid disturbances in Ballymurphy sparked by the introduction of internment without trial.Relatives of the 10 people fatally shot insist none of them was armed or involved in any terrorist activity.M597 was a member of A company.He said he was in the Henry Taggart base shortly after an incident in which four people were fatally shot.
Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victimsM597 wept briefly as he described seeing three or four bodies in the hall and recalled what the soldiers there told him had happened.He said the soldiers were on a high, excited, and had clearly enjoyed what they had done.
Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment were based at Henry Taggart Army base
He said they told him that B company officers had lost control, and that the Army would give them cover for whatever they had done.M597 said they felt they could "shoot anything that gets in the way".He said the soldiers made a joke about the bodies and seemed to show no respect for those they had killed."It was a joke to them," he told the court.Those killed in Ballymurphy included a mother-of-eight and a priest. M597 also said the B Company soldiers had told him that, in their view, "any man or woman walking the street was in the IRA, or associated with the IRA, and for that reason alone could or would be shot".He said the soldiers he met "revelled in what happened".
'Pat on the back'
He also explained that earlier in the day on 9 August 1971, he had shot and wounded a petrol bomber on the Falls Road in west Belfast, and had accompanied him to hospital.He said the incident was not properly investigated, but that the battalion adjutant had called him into his office some days later and given him "literally a pat on the back".He said the officer had told him "the only mistake you made was not killing the..." and said that the officer then swore.M597 said he had no memory of making a proper statement.He said that many months later in court he agreed to drop the charge of petrol bombing against the man because he had nothing against him.He also described a separate occasion when he was given photographs of shooting victims by a medic or doctor, but refused to keep them.He said he thought: "God, these are real people from here."Of those weeks in 1971 he said: "It was sheer bravado, rogue soldiers were out of control, killing people in the street and knowing they would be protected."
Belfast
Ballymurphy inquest
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