The Ballymurphy Precedent
Told through witness testimony, forensic investigation, innovative reconstruction techniques and powerful, engaging storytelling, this documentary film tells of the killings of ten innocent Catholics in August 1971 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the hands of an elite British Parachute Regiment. The British Army claimed the dead were armed terrorists – a false claim that has yet to be withdrawn.
At the heart of my film is a terrible story. In a housing estate in West Belfast in 1971 the British army shot dead ten unarmed Catholics - including a priest and a mother of eight. An eleventh victim died of a heart attack after a confrontation with an army patrol. These innocent people all died as a result of an operation carried out by members of Britain’s elite Parachute regiment - the same regiment which less than six months later was to shoot dead another thirteen innocent people on Bloody Sunday.
I first began looking into this story four years ago. The more I spoke to people who were there at the time, including the survivors and the relatives, many of whom were then still children, the clearer it became that there was even more to this story than the tragedy of these appalling killings.
I came to realise that understanding what happened over those three days is actually central to understanding what happened over the next thirty years in Northern Ireland. So as well as being a forensic investigation of those killings, my film is about the catastrophic military and political strategy which led to them – and the decades of bloody violence which followed.
But I didn’t want this to be either a political polemic or simply an investigation of the facts. This is a very human story. It is about the experiences of the ordinary Catholic people (and in particular the women) of Ballymurphy as they lived through the early, traumatic, period of what was to became a thirty year war. It is the story of the bereaved families’ courage and their determination to get to the truth.
But this story also calls into question the conventional history of the troubles and demands a re-examination of Britain’s role in the creation thirty years of war in Northern Ireland. The truth about the killings in Ballymurphy leaves British claims that Bloody Sunday was an isolated incident looking completely implausible. It also, in my view, renders unsustainable the conclusion of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that the British Government and Ministry of Defence could not be held responsible for those deaths in Derry, five months later.
As Richard Rudkin, one of the British soldiers who appears in the film, says: “If steps had been taken to look at what happened in Ballymurphy, admit what had gone wrong, Bloody Sunday would never have occurred, and if Bloody Sunday would never have occurred, I would suggest many more deaths after that would never have occurred.”
- Callum Macrae
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1 x 108 Minutes
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Dartmouth Films Limited
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"Impressive... shocking... a desperately sad film." - The Guardian
"An astonishing documentary... urgent, angry and moral.Top tier film-making." - Total Film
"Eye-opening... a searing account." - Daily Beast
"Searing and emotionally charged" - Scannian
"Insightful and delicately crafted... incredibly eye-opening" - The Digital Fix
"Not rewriting history... correcting it" - The Impartial Reporter
"Depths of a savage massacre laid bare" - The Mirror
"A landmark film" - John Pilger
"A powerful, shocking documentary" - The National