Ballymurphy Massacre Inquests Day April 11, 2019

Posted By: April 12, 2019

The court was just sitting in the afternoon and was scheduled to hear evidence from one witness M506 a private soldier in 2 Para who was stationed in Vere Foster School.
The coroner had granted M506 anonymity and screening from the public, but as with other military witnesses the coroner Justice Keegan has granted permission for immediate family members to view the witness from the jury box.  This arrangement has been negotiated and agreed by counsel for the families and council for the MOD weeks in advance of witnesses appearing in court.
As families entered the courtroom M506 objected to this arrangement and wanted to be screened completely from the public and families.
The same issue arose last week with M156 and families were concerned that if full screening was granted it would set a precedent and asked the coroner to consider their concerns
The late request by M506 for full screening caused a delay to the proceedings so that counsel for the families could consider the request.  Fiona Doherty council for the families reminded the coroner of their previous concerns and proposed that one member from each family could view the witness in order to hear the evidence.  Justice Keegan was grateful to the families for accepting the compromise and told the court that she was mindful that families don’t want this arrangement to become the norm and would consider further applications on their merit.
Some weeks ago council for the families asked if military witnesses could be shown the original ciphered statements in advance of giving their evidence to see if they could assist the court in identifying soldiers.
As M506 entered the witness box Mr. Coll council for the MOD asked the coroner for some time to consult with M506 so that he could show him the ciphered statements.
Justice Keegan suggested it’s not fair to the witness to be faced with this on the day so allowed for the consultation.
Ms. Quinlivan objected stating that this should have been done in advance either by the MOD or the coroner service.
While Mr. Coll consulted the witness Justice Keegan heard submissions from the MOD and counsel for the families on an application by M12 for excusal to give evidence on medical grounds.
M12 was a company commander in Support Company 2 Para and was on duty in the Springfield Park/Springmartin area where Father Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn were shot dead. The court heard M12 was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and has been recently hospitalized.
Justice Keegan heard the applications before adjourning to consider her decision. She ruled in favor of the application saying it was clear from the medical evidence provided that M12 suffers from “a significant cognitive impairment” and would not be able to provide “reliable witness testimony”.
Due to the delays and adjournments, the court didn’t hear evidence from M506 which will now be rescheduled.
The Inquests resume on 29th April at 10.30am