Bishop backs inquiry into killings by paras

 

THE BISHOP of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor yesterday expressed his support for an international, independent inquiry into the 11 killings carried out by the parachute regiment in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in 1971.

Bishop Treanor was speaking at a press conference where previously undisclosed documents from church archives relating to the events were being made available for the first time.

Drawing attention to the involvement of some of the same soldiers who took part in the events of Bloody Sunday less than six months later, he said that the Ballymurphy killings were “the unfinished business of the Saville Inquiry.”

Bishop Treanor said: “As with Bloody Sunday, the reputations of those who were killed were actively besmirched and the evidence of the liable eyewitnesses was either ignored or actively discredited.

“Indeed the events in Ballymurphy on August 9th-11th, 1971, would and perhaps should have been considered the necessary starting point for such an inquiry,” he added.

Among the documents handed over to families of the victims was the original typed copy of a report summarising the main findings of several eyewitness accounts taken “about a fortnight after the incident”.

Among those killed were a mother of eight, and a priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot as he administered Last Rites to another victim.

Those who compiled the report indicate that on the basis of the eyewitness accounts, “we are convinced that the British army units involved, whether through fear or vindictiveness, unnecessarily fired a large number of rounds into the waste grounds across which innocent men, women and children were fleeing”.

Bishop Treanor emphasised the fact that he and the families were not seeking “an expensive and lengthy Saville-style inquiry”.

“It does not always require a Saville-style inquiry to provide sufficient grounds for an apology for actions that were manifestly wrong or to uphold the innocence of those who were manifestly innocent or entitled to the presumption of innocence,” he said.