Springhill Massacre

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Springhill Massacre
Part of the Troubles
Springhill massacre.JPG
Poster demanding an inquiry in the Beechmount area of Belfast
Location Belfast, Northern Ireland
Date 9 July 1972
Attack type
Sniper shooting, mass murder
Weapons Sniper rifles
Deaths 5
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrators British Army snipers

The Springhill Massacre[1] was a shooting incident, which claimed five lives, on 9 July 1972 in the Springhill estate in west Belfast, Northern Ireland. Three civilians (including a Catholic priest) and two members of Fianna Éireann were shot dead by British Army snipers firing from a timber yard.


The Northern Ireland Troubles had been raging for three years and hundreds had already been killed by the two warring factions in Northern Ireland, Irish republicans wanting unification with the Republic of Ireland, and unionists, including Ulster loyalists and the British Army.[2] Violence had been taking place all day and the five dead were part of ten people killed that day.[citation needed]

The shootings

Residents' and IRA version of events

According to a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) statement on 10 July, British Army snipers took up sniping positions in Corry's timber yard and reinforced them with sandbags. Two cars pulled into Springhill and the snipers fired two shots at them. One of the cars fled while the other drove a short distance and stopped, the occupants got out and the snipers opened fire again, One occupant was shot in the back of the head and was seriously wounded. A resident rushed to help the injured man but was immediately shot in the arm, and this man's brother and a friend ran to the downed occupant but both were shot by the snipers. At some point during this time a 13-year-old girl was fatally shot by the snipers. The parish priest and a passer-by (the priest was waving a white cloth) rushed to her but a sniper killed both with a single bullet that passed through both their heads. All the victims were unarmed.

British version of events

The British Army disputed this version of events and claimed its troops were fired on first by the IRA, ending a temporary IRA ceasefire. A British Army spokesman stated: “There has been a heavy exchange of fire between the IRA and troops. Some of the dead and wounded were undoubtedly caught in the crossfire.” On 10 July, the British Army claimed that it had killed terrorists. An open verdict was recorded at the inquest into the events.

The deceased

The dead commemorated in a republican garden of Remembrance in Ballymurphy, Belfast
  • Margaret Gargan, 13, shot in the head
  • John Dougal, 16, shot in the chest
  • David McCafferty, 15, shot in the chest
  • Patrick Butler, 39, shot in the head
  • Father Noel Fitzpatrick, 40, shot in the neck

The wounded

  • Martin Dudley, shot in the back of the head
  • Brian Pettigrew, shot in the arm


In May 2005, Michael Norman, a former Coldstream Guardsman and Special Air Service trooper, was found shot in the stomach in his car in London, with photographs of certain incidents in which he had been involved. He later told colleagues at Sandhurst, where he was an instructor, that he was on an IRA hit list. His ex-wife said that she did not believe Norman committed suicide, although she added that he never told her that he was on an IRA list.[3]

See also


  1. RTÉ News. "Springhill survivors demand independent inquiry", 2 August 1999; retrieved 22 March 2011
  2. English, Richard (2003). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Pan Books. p. 136. ISBN 0-330-49388-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "IRA LINK TO DEAD SAS MAN; Special Forces soldier was top of Republican hit list". Thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 2 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links