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Mac Airt and Donnelly are a generation apart – he the grandson of a victim, she the daughter of one – yet they were bonded by the same gnawing sense of injustice.
They championed each other’s work, lending private and public support.
Every time she imparts a new piece of information, she reaches for her files – for a soldier’s statement, a report – and searches for the exact line that proves she’s telling the truth.
It’s as if she’s afraid of not being believed, and so she speaks in a clipped, encyclopedic tone, only referring to the facts she can prove – like a cop, investigating the murder of someone she’s never met.
he first bullet pierced Joseph Murphy’s leg and exited the other side as he was running across the grass, away from the gunfire. One soldier stood over him and cocked a gun at his bleeding leg. The death of Murphy and ten other civilians during August 9-11, 1971, would become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre.
On the aerial map of a field in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which hangs in her office, Janet Donnelly, Murphy’s daughter, can pinpoint the exact location where it happened in August 1971: A red pin, marking the spot where he was shot, then cried out to his friend, “Dessie, I’m hit! It was one atrocity of many that would take place during Northern Ireland’s conflict, The Troubles, a war fuelled by hostility between the country’s Protestant and Catholic factions.
He hadn’t been working there that day, and had assumed that if there’d been a break-in, he’d have heard about it.
Then the HET uncovered a statement from a soldier saying they had indeed broken into the shop to take shelter.
In the years that followed the end of the Troubles, many people like Donnelly became amateur cold-case sleuths, trying to get the truth about their loved ones’ deaths.This is the British Army’s version of what happened that August: Members of the Parachute Regiment moved into Ballymurphy, a small area of West Belfast, to round up suspected members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and intern them. But while lying in the hospital, Murphy told his wife a different story: Rioting had indeed broken out in the area, and he’d gone out looking for their teenage sons.