Ballymurphy inquests: ‘Truth laid bare for all to see,’ says O’Neill

Findings are vindication for the families, says Coveney

The Teggart family with John Teggart, right, arrive at the International Convention Centre in Belfast for the Ballymurphy inquests. Photograph: Liam McBurney/ PA Wire

The Teggart family with John Teggart, right, arrive at the International Convention Centre in Belfast for the Ballymurphy inquests. Photograph: Liam McBurney/ PA Wire

 

The findings of the inquest into the deaths of those killed in the Ballymurphy massacre “have cast a tremendous new light on one of the darkest pages of the history of the conflict”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

They will also come as “an immense relief and vindication for the families who have maintained for decades that their loved ones were innocent and their killings unjustified”.

Describing the clearing of the names of 10 people shot dead during three days after the introduction of internment as “historic developments”, Mr Coveney said it would not have been possible “without the determined campaign by the families of those killed in Ballymurphy for the truth of what took place in those terrible days in August 1971”.

The North’s Deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, described the findings as “a day for truth and for the Ballymurphy families as the British state’s murder has been exposed”.

Ms O’Neill said the Ballymurphy killings were “state murder and for decades the British government have covered it up”.

“Now the truth has been laid bare for all to see,” she said.

“But still this British government is attempting to slam the door to justice closed in the face of these families and others killed by the state or as a result of collusion.”

British forces “cannot be above the law”, she said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the inquest verdict was a “ vindication” of the campaign of the families of all those killed to get truth and justice.

‘Entirely innocent’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was never in any doubt about the Ballymurphy killings “that these innocents were killed without any justification and that they were entirely innocent”.

He said in the Dáil that there remained “enormous personal grief and sense of loss that is renewed when intensive media attention returns to a case like this”.

“It’s been a very harrowing experience for relatives and there have been many false dawns in terms of trying to get closure and trying to get justice.”

Mr Martin also stressed that the Government was “very clear that the legacy of violence remains a deep wound and must be dealt with”.

“The framework for dealing with it is in the Stormont House Agreement that was agreed by the two governments and all of the parties” in the North, he said.

Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood said families of those killed had demonstrated “an unshakable dignity throughout their long journey toward truth”.

“They have stood against attempts to blacken the names of their loved ones, attempts to deny the truth and rewrite the past,” he said.

“Today they can stand proudly in the knowledge that their friends and family were entirely innocent of wrongdoing and the whole world knows it.”

The North’s Justice Minister and Alliance leader Naomi Long called on the British government to apologise for the actions of the army in the Ballymurphy massacre.

“The UK government now needs to step up and formally apologise for the actions of the army on the day in question,” she said.

“We saw how much a similar apology in relation to Bloody Sunday meant to the families there, and I encourage the government to acknowledge the courage of the Ballymurphy families with a similar statement.”

Britain’s ministry of defence said it recognises “how difficult the process has been” for “all those affected.”

“We note the coroner’s findings which have been long awaited by the bereaved families of the deceased, military personnel and their relatives,” a spokesman said.

“We recognise how difficult the process has been for all of those affected by the events of August 1971 and the inquest.

“We will now take the time to review the report and carefully consider the conclusions drawn.”

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor said it was an “unambiguous determination that 10 innocent civilians were unjustly killed” in the atrocity.

On Fr Mullan’s killing, he said the priest had made the “ultimate sacrifice” to anoint one of his parishioners.