Saturday 17 February 2018

Taoiseach disappointed with British refusal to hold Ballymurphy massacre investigation

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Relatives of those killed by British soldiers in 1971 attend a press conference in Ballymurphy in 2011

Daniel McConnell Group Political Correspondent

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has expressed his disappointment that the British Government has rejected calls for an independent re-examination of a British Army operation that left 11 people dead in west Belfast more than 40 years ago.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had been called on to establish a review of the evidence in relation to the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre.

Ten people were killed after being shot by soldiers over three days of gunfire in August 1971, including a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight.

Another man died of a heart attack following a confrontation with the troops.

But Ms Villiers earlier today informed the families that the British government has decided not to set up a review, claiming it “would not serve the public interest.”

Reacting to the news, Mr Kenny said: “I note the statement issued today by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. I am disappointed to learn of this decision,” he said.

“I met with the Ballymurphy families in Dublin in January as part of my series of meetings with victims and relatives affected by the Northern Ireland troubles. The families explained their proposals for an independent panel review of the events that took place in Belfast in August 1971 when 11 people were killed.   I told the families that the Government supported their case, and that I intend to visit Ballymurphy and meet with the families there during a future visit to Belfast,” the Taoiseach added.

Following their meeting in January, Mr Kenny wrote to Prime Minister Cameron asking that the families request for a limited review be granted.  He also raised the matter with him at their most recent meeting in London on March 11.

“Consequently, I am disappointed with today's news, which I know will come as a blow to the families. Notwithstanding this setback, I hope that it will still be possible to find a way for the families to get the truth and to vindicate fully the good names of their loved ones,” he added.

Members of the Parachute Regiment involved in the fatal operation in Ballymurphy, were also involved in Bloody Sunday in Derry six months later.

A new inquest into the ten deaths caused by gunfire was ordered by Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC in 2011.

The families have also long campaigned for a review panel to be set up by the government. They wanted the inquiry modelled on the one that re-examined the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

They wanted the panel to be chaired by former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan. The British Soldiers claimed they had come under attack and had returned fire.

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