Ballymurphy investigation: 10 innocent people killed without justification, according to coroner | UK News
Ten people shot dead in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, in 1971 were innocent and their deaths were without justification, a coroner has ruled.
Relatives of the nine men and a woman who were killed applauded when Judge Keegan exonerated them and found that there had been a disproportionate use of force.
The coroner attributed nine of the ten shots to the British Army, saying there was not enough evidence to determine where the shot came from that killed the 10th victim, John McKerr.
She ruled out paramilitaries’ involvement in any of those killed and called them “totally innocent of any wrongdoing on the day in question”.
The families of those killed in Ballymurphy reacted with a mixture of fury and relief at the conclusion of the investigation, and rejected calls for amnesty on lawsuits.
Following the judgment, North Ireland Deputy Prime Minister Michelle O’Neill called the murders a “British state murder”.
“The victims and families of the Ballymurphy massacre have been confirmed and the truth laid bare,” she tweeted.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the findings would come as “immense relief and justification for families who have argued for decades that their loved ones are innocent and their murders unwarranted”.
He added: “Any family bereaved in the conflict must have access to an effective investigation and a justice process regardless of the perpetrator.”
The new investigations – which began in November 2018 – did not include an 11th victim, Paddy McCarthy, who was shot in the hand at a community center in Ballymurphy and later died of a heart attack.
Among those killed were a Roman Catholic priest, Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Francis Quinn, 44, who was shot dead when he went to the aid of the clergyman.
Four people died in a second incident – Noel Phillips, 19; Joan Connolly, 44, mother of eight; Daniel Teggart, 44, and Joseph Murray, 41.
Edward Doherty, 43, John Laverty, 20, and Joseph Corr, 43, were the last three victims of what locals call “the Ballymurphy massacre”.
The shootings took place over three days in August 1971 during serious civil unrest in Belfast when the government decided to detain IRA suspects without trial.
The British military reported a shooting with terrorists in Ballymurphy and, although there was evidence of paramilitary activity, the dead were unarmed.
Horrified at being labeled terrorists, their families rejected the result of an investigation and demanded a new one.
In Tuesday’s decision, the coroner said Father Mullan and Mr Quinn were killed by gunfire from soldiers and the force used was not justified.
She said she was pleased the two had stepped onto the pitch to help an injured man.
While the coroner said there was evidence of a small number of IRA gunmen in the wider area that day, she said that did not apply to the wasteland when the men were shot.
She said neither of the men was armed and they weren’t near someone with a gun.
Madam Justice Keegan said there was evidence the priest waved a white object, either a handkerchief or a t-shirt.
She also rejected a suggestion from the Defense Department that the men were shot dead by a sniper from the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) paramilitary group.
However, the coroner said she was unable to identify the soldiers who fired the fatal shots.
She rejected claims that Mr. Doherty threw gasoline bombs at the time he was shot, adding: “He was an innocent man who posed no threat.”
Mr McKerr, a former soldier, was shot dead while taking a break from maintenance work and died of his injuries.
Madam Justice Keegan said he was an entirely innocent man, but there was not enough evidence for her to determine where the gunshot that killed him came from, or whether he had been shot by soldiers or paramilitaries.
She noted that Mr. McKerr was a “proud soldier” and claims that he was associated with the IRA caused great pain to his family for the next five decades.
“I can dispel this rumor and suspicion once and for all,” she said.
Following the ruling, Ms Connolly’s daughter, Briege Voyle, told Sky News the coroner said “exactly what we know”.
“Now the world knows it – my mum was an innocent woman. She was not an armed woman,” Ms. Voyle said.
“She was an innocent woman who came out of a safe place to help a child.”
Ms Voyle said that “the soldiers had not cooperated with the courts, which meant that we had a lot of questions left.”
Judge Keegan described the investigations as the longest to date in Northern Ireland.
She said the shooting violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to life protected by law.
The results mark a turning point in a campaign that spanned nearly half a century.
“Relief and Tears”: About 70 loved ones watched the verdicts of the Church of Corpus Christie in #Ballymurphy. Parish priest Father Paddy McCafferty said there was “immense relief” and “no ambiguity” about the innocence of the victims. The mood around Ballymurphy is calm and dark pic.twitter.com/CUKRiWVCxw
– Stephen Murphy (@SMurphyTV) May 11, 2021
But they come the same day the government confirmed plans to introduce legislation to touch on Northern Ireland’s past.
This will likely mean the end of historic prosecutions, an effective amnesty that would apply to both soldiers and terrorists.
Victims on all sides claim that any statute of limitations for offenses before the Good Friday Agreement would deny them justice.
Ms Voyle told Sky News the UK government has been “very disrespectful”.
“They are talking about veterans who had a life – they came here and killed our loved ones and they went home and continued to live,” she said.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said the coroner’s findings were “justification” for a long campaign by the families of the victims.
But she added: “Today will be bittersweet as the UK government confirms it will now attempt to prevent families from seeking justice, in defiance of an international agreement signed with the Irish government on treatment. the past.”