The Ballymurphy Precedent Review

When most people think of The Troubles - an ongoing war in Ireland that lasted for three decades - the main event that comes to mind is Bloody Sunday, a devastating act of violence in Derry that left a number of peaceful protestors dead or horribly injured. However, there is now evidence to suggest that such a terrible atrocity could have possibly been prevented, had more people known about the shootings in Ballymurphy a few months earlier, which marked the true beginning of The Troubles.

The Ballymurphy Massacre is in reference to the killing of eleven innocent civilians by the British army, and how members of the army covered their tracks and made themselves out to be the martyrs of the incident. During the late 1960s, there were growing tensions between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland; Catholics were seen as the minority and were treated as lesser beings than their Protestant counterparts. For example, Catholics were often rejected for jobs if employers discovered that they attended a Catholic school. Needless to say, the Catholics were unfairly dealt with during this time, but it was only going to get worse for them before it got better.

This documentary, directed by Callum Macrae, deals with the subject matter with delicacy and sensitivity but, at the same time, does not ask you to pity the family members who lost someone dear to them during these shootings. Indeed, Macrae stated that "We had to develop a way of showing this massacre in a way that did not sanitise it, that really conveyed the appalling, senseless violence of these deaths, but remained at the same time respectful, and devoid of gratuitous imagery".

Not once while watching The Ballymurphy Precedent did I see the family members of the victims as vulnerable or weak. Quite the opposite: they are strong, resilient and are still fighting for the truth to be revealed. The British army claimed that the people they shot dead were gunmen and members of the IRA, which investigators now believe to be a blatant lie. If the actions of the army during the Ballymurphy massacres were discovered straight away, again, it is more likely that the travesties that occurred during Bloody Sunday that exacerbated The Troubles could have been stopped. This really is a story about corrupt power, how members of a certain authority abused their social position to remove threats that were only perceived in their cruel minds.

Although few people have heard of the events that took place at Ballymurphy, the effect it has had on the surviving family members of the dead civilians is massive. It's so important for stories like these to be told. Breige Voyle, the daughter of Joan, who was shot dead on the first day of the shootings, stated that the only way to draw a line under the past is to tell the truth. A poignant line that will resonate with many. One thing is for certain: the surviving members of the British army have a lot to answer for.


Insightful and delicately crafted, the Ballymurphy Precedent is an incredibly eye-opening account of an overlooked period of history.


out of 10

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