EVERY documentary about the North of Ireland has to begin with a history lesson. Over the years successive British governments have tried and, more times than not, succeeded in distorting the real history of their bloody role in this part of these islands.
In Callum Macrae's new documentary The Ballymurphy Precedent — now on general release in cinemas, with a shorter version, Massacre at Ballymurphy screened on Channel 4 at the weekend — the whole truth is laid bare.
That truth is that the North of Ireland is a colony, with an inbuilt Protestant majority at its birth in 1922 until the power-sharing executive was set up by the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
In 1969, the civil rights movement in the North of Ireland demanded change by peaceful methods. The Catholics wanted equality in the polling booth, in jobs and in housing. In response the RUC, the Protestant police force, buckled under the force of the demonstrations and the Labour government sent in the British army.
In Ballymurphy, they were welcomed by local people who believed they were there to bring “law and order,” but their role was to bring back Protestant rule and a policy of internment which led to 11 killings on the Ballymurphy estate over three days in August 1971. This included a priest and a mother of eight.
In the aftermath, the 11 were accused of being members of the IRA, even though no evidence was ever produced. Unlike Bloody Sunday which happened six months later there has been no official inquiry into the Ballymurphy massacre.
Macrae’s film took four years to make. It includes the personal testimonies of the families, new evidence including eyewitness accounts and a bigger debate about the role of the British army. It is a testament to superb investigative film-making.
The images of the women on the estate fighting the British army with their fists, as they broke the curfew to get food for their children, is powerful and prescient. Macrae shows how the army struggled to deal with the women’s actions and one of those women, Joan Connolly, mother of eight later became a victim of what the families believed were targeted killings.
The inquest into the Ballymurphy deaths began today and its remit will be very limited. It may answer the question of how the victims died but not the wider question of political responsibility.
But the families of the Ballymurphy 11 are hoping that it will finally tell the true story of three days in August 1971 and give them peace and justice.
Massacre at Ballymurphy is available on All 4, channel4.com/programmes/massacre-at-ballymurphy and details of cinema screenings of The Ballymurphy Precedent are at theballymurphyprecedent.com
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.