Taoiseach backs Ballymurphy families
Call for panel to inquire into 1971 Belfast killings of 11 people
Gerry Adams with solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh and relatives of the Ballymurphy killings in 1971 following their meeting with the Taoiseach at Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne /The Irish Times
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has expressed the support of the Government for the families of 11 people killed in Ballymurphy, Belfast, over a three-day period in August 1971.
It is now expected that an inquiry along the lines of that conducted into the Hillsborough disaster will be established, with a panel of experts being given 18 months to report.
At a meeting with the families yesterday, Mr Kenny was given personal accounts from individual family members of the killings that took place in Ballymurphy.
The Taoiseach told the families that the Government supported them and was fully committed to assisting them in their search for justice, finding out the truth and vindicating the good name and reputation of their loved ones.
He said that the Government supported the call for the appointment of an independent panel to examine all documents relating to the context, circumstances and aftermath of the deaths.
The Taoiseach undertook to raise the matter directly with British prime minister David Cameron at their forthcoming meeting. Those in attendance also included political representatives from Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party.
SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said after the meeting that he wanted to acknowledge the efforts and the dignity of the Ballymurphy families in their campaign.
“The Taoiseach’s commitment to support families, his endorsement of the proposals for an independent panel to review case, his commitment to raise the matter with the British prime minister and his wider commitment to truth in relation to all of the past was powerful and significant.”
Mr Attwood said the Government had increasingly shown its commitment to addressing the past in a comprehensive way. That had been clear from the leadership of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, particularly over recent months, and the Haass- O’Sullivan talks process.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams also welcomed the Taoiseach’s support for an independent panel of investigation, describing it as “a significant development” in the campaign.
Mr Adams said the onus was now on the British government to give these families the closure they deserved and which they had been denied for over 40 years.
Solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh, representing the families, said they were seeking an independent panel with terms of reference in line with those which investigated the Hillsborough disaster of 1996.
He said the families had already approached a number of individuals, including Prof Phil Scraton, who was a member of the Hillsborough panel, former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan and human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.