By Rebecca Black, PA
The pronouncement of 10 people killed in west Belfast in 1971 as innocent has been welcomed by Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister.
The British Army was found responsible for nine of the deaths of 10 people in Ballymurphy in August 1971, including a mother-of-eight and a Catholic priest following fresh inquests.
Presiding Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan acknowledged it was a chaotic time but ruled that the use of force by soldiers had been “disproportionate” in the deaths the Army was found to have been responsible for.
She ruled out any paramilitary involvement by any of those killed, and described them as “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing on the day in question”.
Reacting to the findings, Michelle O’Neill claimed it was “British state murder”.
She tweeted: “The victims and the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre have been vindicated and the truth laid bare. This was British state murder.”
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the findings have “cast a tremendous new light on one of the darkest pages of the history of the conflict”.
He said the findings will 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”.
Thoughts are with Ballymurphy families, who lost loved ones nearly 50 yrs ago in some of the most tragic days of the troubles. Like all victims in NI, they have the right to truth & justice, even decades later. I hope the inquest will provide some answers. https://t.co/Fj9wyzaUPO— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) May 11, 2021
(Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the findings have “cast a tremendous new light on one of the darkest pages of the history of the conflict”)
Alliance leader Naomi Long paid tribute to the families following their long campaign to clear their loved ones’ names.
“The Ballymurphy families have had battle too hard and too long to finally hear that truth at today’s inquest ruling into their loved ones’ deaths,” she tweeted.
“They have carried themselves with courage and fortitude throughout the last 50 years. This is vindication of their fight.”
The Ballymurphy families have had battle too hard and too long to finally hear that truth at today's inquest ruling into their loved ones' deaths.— Naomi Long MLA (@naomi_long) May 11, 2021
They have carried themselves with courage and fortitude throughout the last 50 years.
This is vindication of their fight. https://t.co/ksEi7XMey3
(Alliance leader Naomi Long paid tribute to the families following their long campaign to clear their loved ones’ names)
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has welcomed the finding of 10 people killed in Ballymurphy 50 years ago as innocent as a “vindication” of a long campaign by their families.
However, in reference to a signal by the UK Government that it will introduce legislation to address the legacy of the Troubles, Mrs McDonald said the inquest findings are bittersweet.
“Today will be bittersweet as the British Government confirms that they will now attempt to block the families from getting justice, in defiance of an international agreement signed with the Irish government on dealing with the past,” she said,
“The Stormont House Agreement was about facilitating the pursuit of truth and justice in a balanced, transparent and fair manner.
“In February, members of the Dail stood as one in calling for the British Government to honour their commitment to introduce legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement.
“Their intention to now to totally walk away from the Stormont House Agreement is totally unacceptable and it cannot go unchecked and unchallenged.
“Making agreements is important but keeping agreements is even more so. We will be raising this with the Taoiseach today, and it is critical that every political, diplomatic and legal option is now considered by the Irish government.”
Ballymurphy families vindicated - @MaryLouMcDonald— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) May 11, 2021
"They always knew the truth, people across Ireland always knew the truth and today the facts have been laid bare before the world. The British government cannot block the families from getting justice."https://t.co/Z5gySUBLsJ pic.twitter.com/tC7HPVX8AF
Labour shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh said the inquest’s conclusions were “irrefutable” and the deaths were “without justification”.
She added: “For these families, the standard to which we hold ourselves as a nation of laws has fallen far short.
“Many more families affected by the conflict are, too, still fighting for answers.
The case for a comprehensive legacy process, with families able to discover the truth about what happened to their loved ones and where possible, justice, is strong and compelling.
“Ministers promised victims such a process, they owe it to families to deliver on their commitments."
Over three days in Ballymurphy in August 1971, ten innocent people were killed.— Louise Haigh (@LouHaigh) May 11, 2021
Those who lost their loved ones have today, finally, heard the truth and been vindicated.
That it took fifty years represents a profound failure of justice. pic.twitter.com/ckeKEs4UQY