Posted on May 31, 2019
General Sir Mike Jackson was giving evidence to a fresh inquest into the shootings in Belfast where 10 civilians were killed across three days. Sir Mike was a captain in the Parachute Regiment on deployment in Belfast at the time.
Michael Mansfield QC, counsel for the family of victim Joseph Corr, asked Sir Mike why soldiers involved in the shootings were not interviewed by the Royal Military Police at the time. He put it to Sir Mike that there had been an attempt to “cover-up” the shooting of Mr Corr and John Laverty on 11 August.
Sir Mike responded: “It is a preposterous accusation to make which would require a huge number of people to be part of. It simply does not add up. It may be there was a breakdown in procedure, it may be that the whole system was overwhelmed by the mayhem of that week, I don’t know. But I do know we (British Army) don’t do conspiracies.”
Sir Mike recalled a gun battle on 11 August between the Army and the IRA, which he said lasted two to three hours and involved 20 gunmen. While he did not see the battle, he said he heard the shots, including the “distinctive thumping noise of a Thompson submachine gun” – a weapon then associated with the IRA. He said: “I have absolutely no doubt that the IRA were firing on soldiers and soldiers were firing on the IRA.” Claims that IRA gunmen were in the area at the time have been disputed during the inquest hearings.
A newspaper article published later on 11 August described Mr Laverty and Mr Corr as gunmen. Their families have insisted they were not gunmen and the inquest heard guns were not found when their bodies were recovered.
Sir Mike told the inquest he accepts it was likely he was a captain quoted by the newspaper, although he did not recall giving the interview. Pressed on why the pair had been described as gunmen, Sir Mike said he would have been fed information from soldiers on the ground, by radio or face to face. Sir Mike admitted he “should have said ‘alleged'”. He also said it is “hugely regrettable” that people lost their lives in Ballymurphy and offered his sympathy to the relatives of those who died.