#OTD in 1972 – Springhill Massacre: British snipers shot dead five Catholic civilians and wounded two others in Springhill, Belfast.

The Springhill Massacre was a shooting incident on 9 July 1972 in the Springhill estate in west Belfast. Five civilians were killed by British Army snipers firing from a timber yard.

Army snipers took up positions in Corry’s timber yard and reinforced them with sandbags. Two cars pulled into Springhill and the snipers fired two shots at them. One of the cars fled while the other drove a short distance and stopped, the occupants got out and the snipers opened fire again. One occupant was shot in the back of the head and was seriously wounded. A resident rushed to help the injured man but was immediately shot in the arm. The man’s brother and his friend ran to the downed occupant but both were shot by the snipers. At some point during this time a 13-year-old girl was fatally shot by the snipers. The parish priest and a passer-by (the priest was waving a white cloth) rushed to her but a sniper killed both with a single bullet that passed through both their heads. All the victims were unarmed.

On 10 July, the Army claimed that it had killed terrorists. An open verdict was recorded at the inquest into the events.

In May 2005, Michael Norman, a former SAS trooper, was found shot dead in his car with photographs of the incident. It is unclear whether he was involved or whether he had committed suicide.

New inquests into the deaths announced by Attorney General John Larkin in December 2014 was welcoming news to the victim’s families. However, in May 2016, The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan wanted funding for a five-year programme to hear the inquests. But, the proposed bid for the money was not even discussed by the executive before the last assembly was dissolved.

It is understood that the Lord Chief Justice is bitterly disappointed by the failure of the executive to act on the proposal. Dozens of outstanding legacy inquests involving more than 80 deaths remain to be heard. They include some of the Troubles’ most controversial killings such as those that involve the security forces and collusion allegations. The Lord Chief Justice met relatives of many of the victims three months ago.

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Photo: The deceased commemorated in a republican garden of Remembrance in Ballymurphy, west Belfast

Margaret Gargan, 13
John Dougal, 16
David McCafferty, 15
Paddy Butler, 30
Father Noel Fitzpatrick, 42

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