Springhill inquest Thursday 9th March

Henry ‘Harry’ Gargan, was the brother of Margaret Gargan, the youngest victim on 9 July 1972. Harry was 12 years old when his 13-year-old sister was killed and their family lived on Westrock Drive at the time.

On the night of 9 July 1972 Harry, Margaret and their father were all at the community centre for bingo night. Harry Gargan remembers his father asking him to go home to check on the children, who were home alone at the time while their mother was at St John’s GAA Club. He didn’t want to go and Margaret offered to go instead. Harry Gargan said that he will regret that moment for the rest of his life.

Harry Gargan remembers his sister leaving the community centre around 9:20 PM, before he and his father began calling the second half of bingo. At about 9:45 pm a man burst into the community centre and announced that Margaret had been shot and she was at the Meehan’s house. Harry Gargan left the community centre immediately to find his sister. While he was running toward the Meehan house, Harry remembers hearing shots coming from his right and having to crawl at some points because he did not know where the shots were coming from or who was shooting. He remembers that the ambulance couldn’t get through the streets to Margaret. Harry Gargan also received a letter from the mother of a man who had been killed. The letter said that she was sorry for what happened to Margaret and that if the British Army was not present in Northern Ireland, Margaret and her son would still be alive.

Joseph Aiken, counsel for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) cross examined Harry Gargan. Harry Gargan does not remember the community centre being known by any other names and did not know of anywhere called the Shamrock Club outside of Ardoyne. Joseph Aiken’s questions suggested that he believed community centres were being used by paramilitaries.  Harry Gargan explained that he only became involved in the search for truth in 2005, when his dying father asked him to work for justice for Margaret.

Mr Aiken then asked if Harry had ever seen a Springhill Massacre pamphlet, which contained anonymised eyewitness accounts of the events of 9 July 1972. Harry had not. Referring to one eyewitness statement in the pamphlet, Mr Aiken asked if Harry was ever told about IRA members being present in the area of the massacre, or if anyone had ever mentioned IRA activity in relation to his sister’s death. Harry said that he had not, and had not learned the identify of any armed present that night or any men involved in illegal organisations at the time.

Karen Quinlivan, lawyer for the Gargan family, also cross-examined Harry Gargan. He stated that at no stage that night did he see any civilian with a gun. He remembers the Springhill and West Rock areas as a bad place around the time of the incident, and that it was known that the British Army was present in Corry’s Timber Yard. He remembers seeing rifles in the peaks of the buildings.

Harry Gargan remembers that after Margaret’s death, his mother cried every night and developed an addiction, which made Harry avoid spending time at home. He was emotionally unable to discuss Margaret’s death with his family or anywhere else.

The second witness was Marie McHugh (nee Meehan), who appeared via video link. Marie Meehan was one of 10 children and 12 years old at the time of the events.

Marie left the community centre with Margaret to check on Margaret’s siblings. Margaret was wearing trousers and a shirt, which was a normal outfit for a girl at that time.  Marie and Margaret stopped outside of the Meehan family home to talk to Marie’s sister Lizzie and Lizzie’s friend Rosemary. Marie was next to Margaret when she saw big flashes coming from the direction of Corry’s Timber Yard. She saw things whizzing around in the air and then Margaret fell to the ground. Marie does not remember any shots before the one that hit Margaret. Joseph Aiken challenged Marie’s account.