Government ‘truly sorry’ for events at Ballymurphy where 10 innocent people killed


The UK government has said it is “truly sorry” for the events at Ballymurphy in Northern Ireland 50 years ago in which 10 innocent people were killed.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis made the apology in the Commons, telling MPs that Boris Johnson would be writing personally to the victims’ families.

“The events of Ballymurphy should never have happened, the families of those who were killed should never have had to experience the grief and trauma of that loss,” Mr Lewis said.

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The fight for justice from 1971 to now

“They should have not had to wait almost five decades for judgment this week, nor been compelled to relive that terrible time in August 1971 again and again in their long and distressing quest for the truth.”

It comes after a coroner on Tuesday concluded the victims of shootings over three days in August 1971 were “entirely innocent” and the British Army was responsible for nine of the fatal shootings.

Mrs Justice Keegan found that the use of lethal force by soldiers was not justified.

She also criticised the lack of investigation into the 10th death, that of John McKerr, and said she could not definitively rule who had shot him.

More on Northern Ireland

Mr Lewis added in his statement to MPs: “The vast majority of those who served in Northern Ireland did so with great dignity and professionalism, but it is clear that in some cases, the security forces and the Army made terrible errors too.”

Downing Street said Boris Johnson “apologised unreservedly on behalf of the UK government for the events that took place in Ballymurphy” during a phone call with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill on Wednesday.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the prime minister had described the conclusions of the Ballymurphy Inquest into the “tragic” events as “deeply sad”.

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PM’s Ballymurphy apology ‘needs to be serious’

“The prime minister apologised unreservedly on behalf of the UK government for the events that took place in Ballymurphy and the huge anguish that the lengthy pursuit of truth has caused the families of those killed,” the spokesperson added.

But the prime minister was accused of “bad manners” and of neglecting to be “serious” by not offering a more formal apology.

John Teggart, whose father Daniel was among those shot dead at Ballymurphy, told Sky News he had received no approach from the prime minister’s office.

“There was an apology done but in a way, it’s bad manners,” he said. “He didn’t approach the families. He didn’t let the families know what was happening.

“A journalist had phoned me when I was sitting in my home today and that’s how I found out.”

He added: “Boris Johnson leaks what was said in three-way conversation, a private conversation by the way, to the media. That’s how the families found out.

“I would say to Boris Johnson when it comes to your apology, it needs to be serious.

Mr Teggart said former prime minister David Cameron had “set a precedent of the way things should be done” with his response in 2010 to the findings of an inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972.

Mr Cameron used a House of Commons statement to apologise to the families of those killed.

Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was killed in Ballymurphy, also dismissed Mr Johnson’s apology.

“His apology means nothing, we need him to go back to the Ministry of Defence and tell them to tell the truth, tell our legal team the names of the soldiers who murdered our loved ones and ask them why,” she said.

She added an apology by Mr Johnson in the Commons would have “at least been a bit more respectful… as if he is holding us in a wee bit of respect but to do it this way is trying to push it under the carpet”.

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