Enda Kenny renews calls for Ballymurphy inquiry

Taoiseach meets families of 11 people who were shot by British soldiers in 1971

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to renew pressure on the British government to agree to an inquiry into the August 1971 Ballymurphy killings which resulted in 11 killings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to renew pressure on the British government to agree to an inquiry into the August 1971 Ballymurphy killings which resulted in 11 killings. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to renew pressure on the British government to agree to an inquiry into the August 1971 Ballymurphy killings which resulted in 11 killings.

Mr Kenny, after meeting the Ballymurphy families in west Belfast today (Friday) on the second of a two-day visit to Northern Ireland, said he will write to the British prime minister David Cameron asking him to reconsider his position on an inquiry.

“I will write to the prime minister now and explain to him that I have had this meeting here in Ballymurphy with the residents to invite him again to meet with the residents to hear their stories on a personal basis,” he said.

He said the Government would pursue the issue with whatever British government is returned after the May 7th Westminster general election.

The Ballymurphy shootings 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.

The families had sought a full-scale inquiry but confronted by continuous British government rejections proposed a compromise whereby a panel would examine all documents relating to the killings and then report 12-18 months later. This too was rejected by Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers.

During his visit Mr Kenny also met relatives of the 10 Protestant workmen killed by the IRA near Kingsmill in south Armagh in 1976. He said he would facilitate their search for the truth by opening up any Garda files relating to the murders.

In relation to Ballymurphy Mr Kenny said the British government had a similar obligation to assist the families in establishing the truth behind the killings.

“It is not right, it is not fair, it is not just that the people, irrespective of which side they come from in Northern Ireland, should have to carry this and that it should be carried through to the next generation of young people - it is not right,” he said.

“I feel the rawness of the people here telling me their stories again, as if it happened yesterday,” added the Taoiseach.

The families’ spokesman John Teggart, whose father Danny was killed in the shootings, thanked the Taoiseach for his support and called on Mr Cameron or whoever is the next British prime minister to respond positively.

Mr Teggart said time was of the essence because the killings happened almost 44 years ago. “Our loved ones and the eyewitnesses are dying. Everything needs to be done speedily,” he said.

During his visit Mr Kenny laid flowers at a site where four of the 11 victims were shot. Said Mr Teggart, “I class myself as an Irish citizen and he is the Taoiseach of Ireland in my view. It means a lot for the families for him to be here today.”

On the general political front Mr Kenny urged Northern politicians to resolve the dispute over welfare reform that has led to the stalling of the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, which includes measures to deal with the past.

The Taoiseach said he had a “very good meeting” on Thursday evening with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and believed the stalemate would be broken. He described the current impasse as a “blip in the process”.

On his visit today Mr Kenny also met Co-operation Ireland and members of the various cross-Border bodies.