Majella O'Hare - by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976)
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Shot Dead by the British Army 14 August 1976
by Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray (1976)
Paperback 32pp Out of Print
Originally published in Ireland September 1976 by the authors
These extracts are copyright Fr. Denis Faul and Fr. Raymond Murray. You may not edit, adapt,
or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use
without the express written permission of the author. Redistribution
for commercial purposes is not permitted.
On the 14th August, 1976, just seven minutes before noon, soldiers of the Third Parachute Regiment shot dead a twelve-year-old County Armagh girl while on her way to Confessions at the local chapel, St. Malachy’s, Ballymoyer, near Whitecross. When her father who was working nearby ran up and took the girl in his arms he was cursed by the soldiers in the foulest of bad language. A lying statement was issued saying that the girl was killed in crossfire between the IRA and the British Army.
In this brief paragraph are summed up the stones, not only of Majella O’Hare, but of Leo Norney, of John Pat Cunningham, of Patrick McElhone and of 50 other innocent people who have died by the guns of the British Army in the last four years. Mr. Rees assures us on 2nd September, 1976 that there is a "rule of law under the Security Forces.’ Yet the fact is that no soldier (or RUC man) has served a day in jail for killing or ill-treating people while on duty in Northern Ireland since 1969. We are compelled to ask: Are these people in Security Forces really operating under the rule of law if they are never effectively made amenable to law? Why can the agents of the British Government kill and torture people manifestly innocent in very suspicious circumstances and never pay any penalty? Are they above the law? Is there a conspiracy to make them immune from effective prosecution? Will the long arm of the law never reach members of security forces who killed and tortured? Will it ever reach their officer-god fathers who ordered them to do so? is the job of the Royal Military Police not to find the truth, but to fabricate an effective defence for the soldiers, and instruct how not to co-operate with a sometimes not over-enthusiastic RUC?
If Ireland ever sees greater blackguards than the Third Parachute Regiment, it will be a sad day for the country. Bloody Sunday in Deny, Brian Smith in Ardoyne, Majella and other victims in Armagh. Foul mouthed abuse. Assault. Damage to property. All complaints denied. A skilful use of lies and perjury. This is not the way to promote the rule of law and the protection of law in a sad part of the country.
Meanwhile no justice for Majella’s family. Only sad memory.
This information was prepared for the use of Frank Maguire M.P., in bringing to the attention of the Members of the House of Commons in London serious allegations and complaints made against some members of the 3rd Parachute Regiment (with or without S.A.S. men) during their operations in South Armagh. Most of the complaints were notitied to the Army authorities and to the RUC with no results as yet. We know of other complaints where the victims were unwilling to allow the complaint to be made as the last remark made to them by the soldiers was: "If you complain about this we will shoot you," and they fear a worse beating if they complain.
The Army is operating with very wide powers under the Emergency Powers Act 1973 and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1976. Yet again and again we find well founded complaints brought to our attention where some personnel of the 3rd Parachute Regiment have acted outside the law and ill-treated people, bullied them or threatened their lives. Whether they are doing this with real or tacit permission from their officers is one of the questions Frank Maguire is endeavouring to find an answer to from Roy Mason M.P.
Respect for law and order and justice is the foundation of peace along with respect for truth. For the British to fight terrorism with terrorist tactics is only compounding to problem and making the task of the peacemaker impossible. Life for the ordinary Catholic people is being made very difficult and we have had to visit the victims of the actions described in these complaints in General Hospitals and Mental Hospitals where they are receiving treatment as a result of their experience.
1. On June 12, Liam Prince, a 27-year-old Catholic-teacher, was shot dead as he drove up to an army checkpoint in Forkhill. There had been a land-mine explosion in the area. The Paras shot him dead.
2. Twenty-year-old youth. Taken from his car on June 4th at 10 p.m. at Tamnaghbane on the Camlough-Meigh road while on his way to a dance, taken to a derelict house, punched and butted and had a gun put to his mouth, life threatened. Taken to Bessbrook, after three hours left at the camp gate to walk home on foot at 2a.m.
July 7, 8 p.m. taken from his car at Hugh Byrne’s Rise on the Carrickovaddy Road. A knife was thrown at his feet and then put to his throat, given two days to produce information or he would be killed.
July 11, 8.15 p.m. Taken from his car at Carrickovaddy cottages and threatened with death unless he produced information. "We can get you going to work."
3. 21-year-old youth. July 2, working in the hayfield at Carrowmannon; paratroopers made him stand with his hands out, caught him by the throat, put the gun to his ear, made a noise, saying "You won’t hear the real one."
July 8, 11.30 a.m. taken from the car at Lislea, thumped him in the stomach and kneed him in the back, pulled a lump of hair out of his head, threatened his life: "The boys who got Cleary will be calling around to see you." They stole a camera from the car.
July 10, 1.35 a.m. At Silverbridge accompanied by girl friend. Took him from the car to the rear, thumped him on the neck below the right jaw, slapped him around the head, pulled him by the hair, told to open his mouth and a gun inserted; threatened his life; girl friend intervened. Paratrooper said: "I cut and butchered women in Aden." Then they said: "If you report this, you’ll never see home."
This youth had to spend a period in hospital for treatment to his mouth which was lacerated.
4. 20-year-old youth. June 25, at 8.05 a.m. stopped with a 20-year-old friend on the Carrickovaddy road while going to work. "Taken into a field and made to sit in the nettles and turn on my nose and mouth in the nettles; hit me in the belly with his fist; put the gun to my head and threatened to shoot me; took my sandwiches from the car and ate them and took a packet of cigarettes; interfered with the car so that it had no brakes.
Another day they made us lie on our backs in the field for an hour; when we refused to sing: ‘God Save the Queen’ they made us run up and down with their heavy radio pack on our backs."
5. July 7, 7.45 p.m. on the Carrickovaddy road two Paratroopers exposed themselves to an old woman and a young girl.
6. July 10, a worker alleged that £40 was stolen from his coat at a road block near the Mountain House.
7. July 18, 18-year-old youth held for an hour at a road block at 2 p.m. Thumped and kicked in the stomach. Then examined his stomach to see if there were any marks.
8. June 24. 21-year-old youth. Arrested and taken to Bessbrook at 10.15 p.m., blackmailed with threat of re-arrest if he did not turn informer.
9. June 22. Two 17-year-old youths arrested in Newry; obscene suggestions made to them about their Catholic girl friends.
10. Easter Monday, 18th April, 26-year-old man arrested at Killeen, taken to Bessbrook, thumped and kicked and threatened and blackmailed.
11. Harassment of priests by long holdups at roadblocks and illegal questioning.
12. On the night of July 28 the Paras burned a house at Drumilly, Beleeks, a house with valuable property and savings in it. An Austin 1800 car was seen beside the house and 4 men in dark green fatigues were seen between 12.30 am. and 1 a.m. The house was burned to the ground.
13. July 29, A Reserve RUC Constable, George Edward Johnston, of Rathfriland, County Down, was shot dead at close range by a Para at a checkpoint in Bessbrook in the early hours of the morning. Mr. Johnston who was in civilian clothes was in a car with three other people, two women and a man, when the shooting occurred.
14. Paras burned a valuable hayshed at Carrickovaddy at 3 a.m. 16 August. They were seen around about midnight beside the house. They knocked the door at 3 am. and said - "Your hay-shed is alight." Damage is estimated at more than £5000. It was burned to the ground. The family had been harassed non-stop for the previous three months by the Paras.
OPEN LETTER TO FRANK MAGUIRE, M. P.,
Mr. Maguire - I am sending you the following complaints of brutality by the British Army on people in Crossmaglen. I wish you to bring them to the attention of Merlyn Rees and Roy Mason. You will note that most of the complainants were never "lifted" by the Army before and were returning from their day’s work to their homes in the village when they were brutally assaulted. The soldiers seem to apply a principle of corporate guilt against the Catholics of Crossmaglen as the Nazis did at Lidice.
It appears that this type of mass retaliation against the inhabitants is a matter of policy and not due to "excessive zeal." Although many have not noticed it, the British Army is a highly disciplined army and its soldiers do not beat or shoot people except in response to precise orders from their Officer-Godfathers.
You might consider it a good thing to distribute this leaflet to your fellow members at Westminster. Some of them may share the worry expressed to me by some Englishmen, that the army is beginning to operate as an establishment independent of political control. They misinterpret the current voices for peace as support for themselves, scent victory and wish to "put in the boot" in the Catholic areas - which will produce exactly the opposite effect. Let Britain beware that what happens in St. James, Belfast, Crossmaglen and Eglish today does not happen in Notting Hill and Grimsby tomorrow.
You will also note with no surprise the refusal of the RUC to take complaints from the victims. That is one. reason why no soldier or RUC man has served a day in jail for killing or assaulting citizens while on duty in Northern Ireland since 1969; the agents of the government are not under the law but over it.
Extract from the statement of Francis Murtagh ;
On Tuesday evening, August 31 at 7.30 p.m. I heard shouting and screaming outside and I came to the sitting room window; one of the soldiers saw me at the window and he said: "Get that bastard in there." They pushed. in the door and grabbed me and ran me to the saracen and kicked me on the floor.
When we got to the barracks I was kicked from all directions by the soldiers. I was pulled out of the saracen. In the yard I was put up against the wall in the search position, arms and legs outstretched. I got two belts of the butt of a rifle in the ribs and I was told to take off my jacket and empty the contents and open the belt of my trousers and take off my shoes.
I got a couple of thumps in the face from a man who said he was injured and I got about three kicks between the legs from behind. I fell on the ground and was told to get up again. I got a couple more kicks between the legs and I was asked were they sore enough.
We were told to run to the back of the barracks with our belongings. They made us run through the glass - we had no shoes on us and they made us stand up against the galvanise in the search position; one came to me and the man with me and asked us did we fancy a few rounds with him. He gave me a thump in the groin. Then by helicopter to Bessbrook. A soldier wanted to have a go at me with the butt of his rifle; he was told to sit down.
We were landed in Bessbrook; we had to run the gauntlet of the troops out of the helicopter at the landing place. We were lined up against the wall in a field and told to take our coats and shoes off again. One soldier allotted a civilian to each soldier. He said: "Run for the road." He twisted my arm above my shoulder, told me to make a run for it or he would break it. He ran me into the barracks in that position.
I was brought to the top of the yard and he put ,another fellow with blood on his face beside me. I was standing on a wooden pallet for a fork lift. He told the other man to get on it as well. The pallet was 5’ from the wall. I was told to get my feet to the outside of it and to each corner and stretch out my arms until my finger tips were touching the wall. The same for the man beside me. My left arm collapsed completely. I was told to move one piece of the timber and held myself up with one arm. I was there twenty minutes in that position when I fell. I was told to put my toes in between the timbers and get my arms up and sit in that position for twenty minutes - there was aching in my ankles. Another soldier came in and asked what was I doing in that position. He told me to get back into the more difficult position.
I could not get the left arm up. He said he would do it for me. Then he told everybody else to stand back from the wall and wriggle their fingers to get the circulation back, but to keep their noses to the wall. Two men had collapsed. I fell on the pallet and I was pulled over on to the yard and told to do press ups. I got my elbows on the ground and tried to rise myself, but ankles failed. Another soldier hit me a kick and smashed my watch to pieces. He told me I was an f.. . . ing pansy.
I was taken out to another compound; I was asked my name and religion; he told me I was an Atheist. I was told to hold the blackboard with the details to be photographed. I could not hold it up and it was done for me. I was taken to a cell and given my belongings. After an hour I was taken out. I asked for a doctor - he noted my injuries, arms, legs, testicles ‘and nose. I was interviewed by the Intelligence or Special Branch. They made no effort. The soldiers boasted of running Crossmaglen and I think the operation was an effort to terrorise us. After release I was in Craigavon Hospital for treatment. This was the first time I was "lifted" by the Army.
Signed - Francis Murtagh. Witness - Fr Denis Faul (4/9/76).
About 20 men were arrested on 31/8/76 and ill-treated by Army. The pattern of the ill-treatment is outlined in the statement of Frank Maguire. Here are some shorter extracts from other statements.
Extracts from statement of Edward Cassidy ,
I was never "lifted" by the Army before. On Tuesday, 31 August at 7.10 p.m. I was in my brother-in-law’s car (John McCusker) with my child Louise, aged five, coming from his house at 4 McCormack’s Place, to my own house and I was outside Murtagh’s house when the soldiers blocked the car with their saracen. They told the two of us to get out. They said: "Take the young fellow," meaning me, and did, by the hair of the head and flung me into the landrover.
Into the barracks; I was hit by fists and boots and gun butts and points of guns. A soldier 5’ 8" with a fortnight beard, said: "You know the bastard, mate" and he hit me with the gun in the eye (I could identify him). I thought my nose was broken, my jaw was left very sore. I got three cuts on the back of my head.
They made me take off my boots and immediately stamped on my toes. My stomach was badly injured by thumps and jags of the rifles. They kept saying: "You know who done it, mate."
In the helicopter they said they were going to throw me out. At Bessbrook I was taken by the hair of the head, boots taken off and put in the stress position. Pulled by the hair across the road to a wee yard, search, search position again. I asked, "Could I pull my feet in an inch sir?" (he made me call him ‘sir’). He said, "Put them out two inches mate," and he kicked them out. I was numb in my arms with leaning against the wall. I saw a doctor who noted my injuries and I saw an officer on the way out and complained. I was treated in Craigavon Hospital. I am a peaceable man. I do a lot of refereeing about here.
Signed - Edward Cassidy. Witness - Fr. Denis Faul (4/9/76).
Edward Cassidy’s attempt to lodge an official complaint about his ill-treatment.
On 1/9/76 I went to my solicitors in Newry. They told me to lodge an official complaint with the RUC. I went with another victim to the RUC Station, Newry at 3.30 p.m. Two men were at the desk; I said; "I want to make an official complaint about the brutality I received from the British Army. One of them said: "Where did this happen?" "Between Bessbrook and Crossmaglen." He said: "Go to those places. I can do nothing for you here." He shouted at us. I went to Bessbrook RUC arriving at 4 p.m. What I met in there was an old man. I asked him. He said: "You should not be making it in here; make it in Crossmaglen," (the place I was beaten in).
I am making an official complaint under Section 13 of the Police Act 1970. The RUC men did not want to know. You would think they were ordered to chase us.
Signed - E. Cassidy. Witness - Fr. Denis Faul (4/9/76).
Statement of Patrick Hughes 
I was never "lifted" by the Army before. On Tuesday, 31 August at 7.45 p.m. I came home from Newry from my work into the Ard Ross estate. The soldiers outside Hughes’ shouted:
"Come down here or I’ll shot." They made me run down. Then threw me against a car and hit me a few kicks and threw me into the saracen. When we got to the Barracks, I was pulled out by the hair of the head - against the wall - take off coat and boots. Kept saying: "You know who done it." They kicked me on the ribs. They hit me with the butt of a gun in the eye and they hit me on the jaw. I was spitting blood. They kicked me twice from behind in the privates.
A soldier who was injured hit me a dig in the stomach. They made me walk across glass to the helicopter - I never got my boots back. I asked for my boots, he caught me by the hair of the head and dragged me to the helicopter.
They threatened to throw me out of the helicopter. At Bessbrook they put me me up against the wall and searched us. They took us into the station. They made us stand against the wall on a pallet - made me put my toes between the slots.
They did not ask me for information about the attack, but were satisfied to ill treat me. I did not even hear that there was an attack. I was in Newry at the time.
I saw doctor and he noted my marks. I never got my boots back heavy boots, working boots.
Signed - Pat Hughes. Parent - Sarah Hughes. Witness - Fr. Denis Faul (4/9/76).
Statement of Paddy Rooney 
I am a diabetic. I was never "lifted" by the Army before. I came from Castleblayney to Crossmaglen in my car with my son aged 15 on Tuesday 31/8/76 at 7.30 p.m. Near my own door I met the soldiers. They shouted "Get him out the Godfather." They pulled me out by the hair of the head. They took the young lad out and kicked him. My boy saw the blondie soldier who had called me the Godfather, hit me with the butt of the rifle on the back of the head, inflicting a wound requiring three stitches in Craigavon Hospital. I went unconscious. My neighbours saw me dragged past with my head down. My shirt was covered in blood. I was taken to Bessbrook, to Daisyhill Hospital and then to Craigavon Hospital and from there I arrived home at 2.30a.m My ribs were fractured and I was scraped across the chest.
Signed - P. Rooney. Witness - Fr. Denis Faul (4/9/76).
Statement of James Teelin 
On Tuesday 31/8/76 I was coming through Ard Ross with my cousin John Parnell of Newry at 7.45 p.m. The soldiers dragged both of us out and threw us in the saracen.
In the barracks they made me stand against the wall, pulled me by the hair, hit my chest (I have a bad chest asthma), stomach, kicked me on the privates behind three times, kicked my ankles and knees. They hit me with the butt of a gun on the side. They made me walk through glass in my bare feet. They threatened if I put in a claim or a statement they would cut my throat.
I was taken to Bessbrook by helicopter, dragged out of it by the hair of the head -. made take off boots, made me walk through stones in bare feet, made us stand. against the wall for three hours.
I saw the doctor, the next day I saw my own doctor. My nerves are badly shaken and I find it difficult to sleep.
Signed - James Teelin. Witness - Fr. Denis Faul (4/9/76).
Other statements describe the experiences of an 18-year-old youth, "thumped on the jaw, kicked in the stomach, deprived of sleep.
A second 18-year-old youth; "Taken to the Barracks, caught by the hair of the head, kicked on the back, thumped on the side of the face. Two and a half hours in the stress position threatened.
On the following morning the soldiers assaulted a 16-year-old youth on his way to work, Noel White (16), 22 Ard Ross.
"On Wednesday 1/9/76 I was going to work at am. At the flats I met the soldiers. I was alone. One soldier said, "Take him over here; I like him." He put me against the wall, kicked my legs apart and called me nicknames. He hit me with the gun on the left temple - the blood came down my face. He hit me a thump on the mouth. He was 6’1".
A wee blond soldier picked up my lunch box and flung my lunch around the box and made me drop the box on the ground. I was still bleeding. The soldier said "It was a good f. . .ing job you did not put any blood on my rifle or I would have broken your two legs."
Signed - Noel White. Parent - Kathleen White. Witness - Fr. Denis Faul (4/9/76).
The Royal Marine Commandos are a group of bullies who were allowed or encouraged to bully innocent people end terrorise ordinary decent citizens, never involved in any kind of trouble. The soldiers know they can do this with impunity; that no effective prosecution or disciplinary action will be taken against them for running amok (under orders) and beating old men, invalids, and boys to the number of twenty and more. Let no one say that this kind of action contributes anything to the maintenance of law and order since these actions were clearly violations of law. Is beating an old and sick man unconscious with a rifle a contribution to the Pax Britannica?
FR. DENIS FAUL, Dungannon.
Majella's home at Knockavanan, Whitecross
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