A priest who called the British army for help just 30 minutes before he was killed was “taking his life into his own hands without hesitation” to help others, according to Belfast-based Fr Paddy McCafferty.
Fr Hugh Mullan, one of the 10 people shot dead during the Ballymurphy Massacre in 1971, had called for assistance to defend Catholics in the beleaguered Belfast community, and afterwards said “we’re going to get no help, there’s no help and we’re on our own”, the Ballymurphy inquest has heard.
“Basically being told you’re not getting any help, this really deeply shocked him. He came off the phone really shaken, shortly after that he was killed as he went to help injured people,” said Fr McCafferty.
Giving evidence last week, Terence Curran told the court he visited the priest on the day of his death on August 9 to find him in a state of shock after finishing the call.
Fr Mullan (38) was later killed by members of 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment, in a field near where he lived in Springfield Park while he was administering Last Rites to Bobby Clarke who had been shot while helping children cross the same area of land.
Francis Quinn, who was just 19 years old at the time, also ran to help the priest. He was shot in the back of the head.
Mr Clarke, who spoke at the inquest on the same day as Mr Curran, said: “I hold myself responsible for two people losing their lives.”
Fr McCafferty said that he hopes the proceedings will help Mr Clarke: “He has carried that heavy burden for all these years, causing him enormous mental suffering and anguish.”
“He was out there trying to help people and could just as easily have been killed himself. These people are heroic, they were ordinary people who were caught up in a terrible situation and they responded with heroism, they sought to help the injured and the dying and some of them paid with their lives.
“Listening to the descriptions it was like a description of hell on earth, people are traumatised and are still traumatised to this day,” he added.
With a break in the inquest this week it will begin again next week and is expected to continue until May.