There truly are unspeakable things. In the crucible of the Ballymurphy Inquest there have been moments of the extraordinary, as the previously unspeakable become affirmed truths.
In March, two middle aged men, Eddie and Martin Butler broke a life time of silence to state their truth. That Eddie at only 11 years of age had been shot by the British army, receiving devastating injuries, Martin witnessed this and escaped, only to experience guilt for the decades afterwards. Neither had spoken to the other of that day. Until they came to give evidence to the court examining the deaths of those who had surrounded them.
How could they explain that silence? They did not need to. Because what they had experienced was utterly unspeakable. How could they speak of it to each other? Silence became the security blanket which smothered but also kept them safe. Their silence kept their truth safe and secure. It was meant to keep them safe. Their father Patrick had insisted on it. His two boys, were so vulnerable. Eddie was to be killed by the British army the following summer. Killed by a sniper in an action that also killed two children and another priest. How could Martin and Eddie speak of their injuries and trauma when their daddy was now also murdered?
Decades would pass until they could speak their truth, be believed, be safe. In the courtroom of an inquest court they spoke of the horror the children inside them had witnessed. There was no opportunity on that day to remember their daddy formally. But he was remembered by them, their family and those from Ballymurphy who gathered to hear and support them.
In vile contrast others have entered the inquest court. Speaking with insult and depravation. How could another human being take a stand in an inquest to boast of “kills” or how scores were taken or how pieces of human carnage were taken as trophies? But they have. These former soldiers hide behind losses of memory and cruel bravado determined to hurt the bereaved families who dare to seek the truth, and undermine the courts that dare to ask them to give their lawful, duty bound accounts.
And then this week one came forward. One who would remember not only the actions of his fellow soldiers in Ballymurphy August 1971 but also the culture of cover up and impunity that reigned and allowed it. His human decency allowed him to share with honesty and sorrow. The testimony of M597, former member of A Company Parachute Regiment, coming after the disgusting spectacles of the previous week, vindicated the civilian witnesses who have consistently described the actions of the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy over those days.
And still it goes on. As the winter has turned to Spring, and now nearly summer, the families have sat in quiet dignity, heartbroken but with strength immeasurable as truths are told, lies exposed and memories recovered.
And yet despite the horrors spoken in that court, only streets away some will fly the flag of the Parachute Regiment as a sordid message. They fly in defiance of truth, reason or compassion. And serve to incite harm and hate. Why is there acceptance or allowance of such obvious incitement to hatred? Those who recognise such obvious lawless outrage need to answer for their unforgivable silence.