Boris Johnson’s apology to Ballymurphy families ‘insincere’

Relatives set to challenge any attempt by British government to shelve Troubles legacy

British PM Boris Johnson issued a formal apology to families of the Ballymurphy victims after a coroner found that the 10 people killed in the west Belfast suburb in August 1971 were ‘entirely innocent’. File photograph: PA

British PM Boris Johnson issued a formal apology to families of the Ballymurphy victims after a coroner found that the 10 people killed in the west Belfast suburb in August 1971 were ‘entirely innocent’. File photograph: PA

 

Families of the Ballymurphy massacre victims have described an apology by British prime minister Boris Johnson as “feeble and insincere”.

Families will challenge any attempt by the British government to “bin” the Stormont House Agreement, which deals with legacy issues of the Troubles, and provide amnesty for British soldiers, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement heard on Tuesday.

Earlier this month Mr Johnson issued a formal apology to the families of the Ballymurphy victims after a coroner found that the 10 people killed in the west Belfast suburb in August 1971 were “entirely innocent”. The British army was found to be responsible for nine of the deaths, which included a mother-of-eight and Catholic priest.

Carmel Quinn, whose brother John Laverty was shot dead in the incident, said Mr Johnson needs to be told “quite firmly” there is no amnesty on the table for British soldiers.

“There are other families who haven’t had any kind of recognition, their loved ones were murdered one day and then nothing happened,” said Ms Quinn.

“The Stormont House Agreement is there, the mechanisms are there. People can’t move on and they are stuck in the past because there has never been any accountability for what happened, nothing at all.”

Heartbreak and anger

Ms Quinn said her brother’s killing has had a lasting impact on her life and that her family will never move on.

“There was nightly raids at our homes because that is what the army did. They targeted the homes of the people that were murdered, they targeted them to try and keep us quiet and try and demonise the families . . . it was another way to try and keep the families down,” she said.

“My mummy was never the same person again after that . . . the rest of my siblings were never the same again and never lived the lives they should have lived.

“I get sometimes very angry because not only did they murder my brother, they destroyed an entire family. Being the youngest, I watched my mummy slowly die in front of me and my dad died at 61 of a broken heart. It was just horrendous.”

Amnesty for British soldiers?

Pádraig Ó Muirigh, solicitor for the Ballymurphy families, said any move to bin the Stormont House Agreement and provide amnesty for British soldiers is a breach of the European Convention of Human Rights and also international human-rights standards.

“These families will challenge any such move by the British government, in the domestic courts or if they need to in the European courts as well,” he said.

John Teggart, whose father Danny was one of the victims, said the families had never asked for an apology from Mr Johnson, but did want a police investigation.

“The police never investigated the deaths of our loved ones. We shouldn’t need to ask for a proper investigation,” he said. “It is normal practice when citizens are murdered. The British government now want to deny us and others any chance for justice by institution of amnesty for these murders.”

Recalls mother weeping at night

He said if there had been an inquiry with soldiers “properly investigated” other lives could have been saved, noting Bloody Sunday.

“If the courts had been more sympathetic to the families, without taking the word of the army at the time . . . things would have been different throughout the conflict,” he added.

Mr Teggart was 11 years old when his father was shot dead. He described the years after his dad’s death as “very hard” and remembered hearing his mother crying at night.

He said his family of 13 split up “as a mechanism of coping together and sharing the pain. That continued through life.”

He said when his mother went for a civil case “at a very early stage”, she was told by a judge at the time because his father was killed “it was actually one less mouth to feed so she was better off”.