Villiers rejects call for Ballymurphy inquiry

Families of 11 victims of 1971 massacre say they may legally challenge decision

Relatives of those killed outside Belfast Coroner’s Court last month at the start of a new inquest into the deaths of 10 people shot dead by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in 1971. Photograph: PA Wire

Relatives of those killed outside Belfast Coroner’s Court last month at the start of a new inquest into the deaths of 10 people shot dead by British soldiers in Ballymurphy in 1971. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The rejection by Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers of calls for the creation of an independent panel to investigate the August 1971 Ballymurphy killings which resulted in 11 deaths was criticised yesterday Taoiseach Enda Kenny, British Labour, nationalist and Alliance Party politicians.

Ms Villiers in a separate statement also rejected a call for a review into the 1978 IRA La Mon House Hotel bombing in east Belfast in which 12 people were killed and another 30 maimed and injured.

The Ballymurphy shootings in west Belfast happened during the introduction of internment without trial. Among the 11 who were killed by British soldiers were a priest, a mother of eight children and a man who died from a heart attack a short time after a soldier allegedly put an empty gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Members of the British parachute regiment, who were involved in Bloody Sunday in Derry six months later, were also involved in the Ballymurphy killings.

The families had campaigned for a public inquiry but, in the face of British government rejections, last year suggested a compromise whereby a panel would examine all documents relating to the killings and then report 12-18 months later.

Ms Villiers, however, rejected the proposal. “I do not believe that such a review would provide answers which are not already in the public domain or covered by existing legal processes,” she said. She gave a similar explanation when rejecting a call for a review into the La Mon House incendiary bombing.

In 2011 the North’s Attorney General John Larkin ordered fresh inquests into 10 of the Ballymurphy killings. These are at an early stage.

The death of Paddy McCarthy, who died from a heart attack when an empty gun allegedly was put into his mouth and the trigger pulled, does not come under the terms of the inquest.

Mr Kenny said he was “disappointed” with the decision which “will come as a blow to the families”.