Paper Trail Chairperson Niall Ó Murchú writes on the news of the new inquest for the New Lodge Six and their families.
We were very pleased for the families when we learned of the news yesterday that the Attorney General for the North of Ireland has ordered a new inquest into the deaths of the New Lodge Six victims.
The battle for a new Inquest follows the families’ long campaign for truth since the murder of their loved ones on 3rd/4th February 1973. With the support of Relatives for Justice (RFJ) and legal representatives Harte Coyle and Collins, Ó Muirigh Solicitors and KRW Law, the families now have the opportunity to obtain justice for their loved ones via an Article 2-compliant inquest.
Few families have been so resolute or dignified in their campaign.
We were also pleased to hear that Paper Trail research was able to support the families too.
The new evidence presented to the Attorney General included information from over 400 secret British Ministry of Defence and Prime Ministerial files uncovered by Paper Trail’s project manager, Ciarán MacAirt, at the National Archives, London, and accessed via the Freedom of Information Act over the last seven years. It accounts for weeks of research away from home and hundreds of hours of work.
Paper Trail previously secured evidence for the families’ legal battles in 2014 to 2016 which proved that:
- – The British Army informed the British Prime Minister that it killed and injured all of the victims
- – The British Army had tried to assassinate and criminalize one of the victims six months before the killings
- – The original inquest was misdirected by the police
The importance of some of these previous documents can be read here: New Lodge Six: Assassination.
After extensive searches in archives, Paper Trail discovered the British Army’s 39 Brigade and Headquarters Northern Ireland Commander’s Diary for February 1973.
These documents remain two of the most important British military records of every month of the British Army’s Operation Banner as they can include Daily Logs, Intelligence Summaries and Situation Reports to name but a few of the very important Annexes in each.
Paper Trail discovered that these files were closed for 84 years until 2058 (at least) but issued Freedom of Information requests on behalf of a bereaved family member in May 2018.
The National Archives and British Ministry of Defence applied a Public Interest Test to each and after appeal and request for internal review, Paper Trail secured the redacted files. The information battles lasted over a year before Paper Trail was allowed to travel to London to retrieve them for the families and legal teams.
This horde of new evidence was critical as it gave us details of:
- – the British Army units involved in the shootings
- – Contemporaneous British military reports before, during and after the shootings
- – British military intelligence and disinformation regarding the victims
- – Suspicious cars in the vicinity
- – British Army Public Relations Reports
- – And much more.
Critical Evidence: 1st Battalion The Queen’s Regiment
Paper Trail thereafter discovered a tranche of critical evidence not only relating to the Battalion involved in the killings – 1st Battalion The Queen’s Regiment (1 Queens) – but also its military operation which led to the New Lodge Six Massacre.
This file was closed for 54 years until 2028 but again Paper Trail fought for its disclosure on behalf of the families.
Following an initial request under the Freedom of Information Act in January 2019 and a subsequent Public Interest Test, Paper Trail secured the information in London and presented it to the family members, RFJ and legal team in early 2020.
In writing this, I asked Paper Trail Project Manager, Ciarán MacAirt, his view on this particular tranche of new evidence. He said:
“Of hundreds of thousands of files we fought for and secured over many years, this file of information is arguably the most important and extensive historical discovery we have made as it included the British Military’s own investigation along with maps, British Army statements of each soldier involved and the cypher list with the rank and name of each soldier (redacted). ”
“The statements and redacted names of each soldier who killed and injured the unarmed victims are there too, as are the redacted serial numbers of their guns so the British Ministry of Defence will not be able to claim the problems it had with tracing British Army shooters at the Ballymurphy Inquest.”
The previously undiscovered box of evidence included significant information relating to:
- – The Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch review with soldier statements, maps, statistics, cyphers and weapon serial numbers
- – British military reporting of the shootings
- – Alleged 1 Queens movements, firing positions and actions throughout its operation
- – Profiles and British military intelligence regarding the victims
- – 1 Queen’s War Diary and Historical Record
- – 1 Queen’s Post-Tour Report
- – 1 Queen’s Regimental Journal
- – Inter-Departmental communications and meetings discussing the killings
- – Newspaper articles
Additional Archival Evidence
As well as the statements of the British soldiers, the files also refer to the inclusion of the “authorised version” [Ministry of Defence emphasis] of the 1 Queens operation to the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Additionally, evidence from the soldier’s statements includes references to the recognition and deliberate targeting of at least one victim and British Army contact with members of the Ulster Defence Association at barricades where shooting occurred.
Importantly too, the secret British Army files prove that 1 Queens took up firing positions in a pre-planned operation before the shootings and a mobile patrol was indeed in the area of the first two shootings as local witnesses had testified.
The same disinformation is included throughout the boxes of information, especially that relating to the British Army allegation that it killed all six victims during a gun battle with the Irish Republican Army. Civilian witnesses have always strongly refuted this and the weight of new evidence supports them.
This new evidence will feature in the new inquest.
Our thoughts are with the families of those who were killed and injured.
The Unarmed Victims Killed
Teenagers Jim McCann and Jim Sloan were killed at the top of New Lodge Road after socialising in a local pub.
Tony “TC” Campbell celebrated his 19th birthday on the night he was killed a few minutes later.
Brendan Maguire, 32, went to TC’s aid and was shot dead.
John Loughran, 35, went to Brendan’s aid and was killed (another man doing the same was badly injured by the same burst of gunfire).
Ambrose Hardy, 26, was shot whilst trying to get home to his mother, and waving a white flag.
Paper Trail will be available to organise Zoom meetings for families if they wish to discuss the new evidence submitted to RFJ and legal teams.
You can read more about the massacre here.
Niall Ó Murchú, Chairperson