Springhill inquest: Ambulance workers harassed while bringing Fr Fitzpatrick’s body to morgue

Fr Noel Fitzpatrick

Today the Springhill inquest heard evidence from two people who worked as volunteers for the Order of Malta ambulance service. They were based in Sultan Street off the Falls Road and had responded on the night of the Springhill killings by the British army to a call that a priest had been shot. In devastating evidence one of the ambulance workers told the inquest that he was stopped by what he believed were members of the British army’s Parachute Regiment on the night of the incident in the Springhill area. They searched the ambulance, and he was spread-eagled and searched, despite being clearly identifiable as an ambulance driver.  He also spoke about the aggressive and hostile attitude of a member of the British army when he brought the body of Father Fitzpatrick to the morgue. 

The first civilian witness to give evidence at today’s inquest was Patrick McClory. He was 22 years old at the time and a volunteer ambulance driver in the Order of Malta ambulance service. They had a mobile first aid post near Fr Des Wilson’s Springhill Community House at the time.  Mr McClory was working on the night of the incident when he and his colleague received a call that a priest had been shot in Springhill.  They went in the ambulance to the house where the body of Father Fitzpatrick was lying. Fr Fitzpatrick appeared to have been dead for quite a while according to Mr McClory. They took his body to the Royal Victoria Hospital where a doctor pronounced him dead. Father Fitzpatrick’s body was then taken to the morgue.  While at the morgue Mr McClory remembered a member of the Royal Military Police (RMP) being present, and very aggressive. The soldier went to one of the other “slabs” in the morgue and pulled back the sheet, saying to him ‘what do you think of that’. Mr McClory said it looked like it was the body of a child.

Mr McClory was asked why he thought the RMP member did this, his response was

“I think he was trying to express a bit of bravado and upset us by showing us the body of a dead child. It was a sneering comment.”

The next witness to give evidence was Margaret McClory.  She was 23 years old at the time and volunteered as a first aider for the Order of Malta.  She also attended the call to go to the house in the Springhill area where the body of a priest, later identified as Father Fitzpatrick, had been taken.  She said she remembered they took the body to the morgue where military personnel ‘were not nice to us.’  She recalled seeing the shoes of a young person visible on a stretcher in the morgue.

The inquest resumes on Thursday 23rd November 2023