Ballymurphy massacre campaigners sceptical about UVF claims
Relatives of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims have voiced serious doubts about a claim that the UVF may have been responsible for some of the deaths.
They spoke out yesterday after it was claimed that "veterans" within the loyalist paramilitary group are set to claim it killed some of the victims.
It is believed that 10 people were shot dead by British soldiers over three days in August 1971.
The Queen’s Own Regiment was also in the area at the time although the killings have been attributed to the Parachute Regiment.
Among the victims was a Catholic priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, and a mother-of-eight Joan Connolly.
Another man, the eleventh victim, died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the British soldiers.
It was later claimed by the British that some of the dead were killed during gun battles between the British army and republicans.
Although it had been previously rumoured that loyalists may have fired shots during the massacre, it is believed to be the first time members of a paramilitary group are preparing to officially claim involvement.
While an inquest into the killings is due to start in September, a hearing is scheduled to take place later this month.
Campaigner John Teggart, whose father Daniel (44) was shot dead, said relatives are sceptical about the UVF claims.
“We have been waiting 47 years and what we don’t need is a paramilitary organisation trying to muddy the waters,” he said.
“They are not trying to help the families, they are trying to distract from what the focus needs to be on.”
While some of the British troops present at the time have been identified, the majority have not.
Families have voiced concern at delays by the British military in tracking down former soldiers.
“We need to put the focus back on where it lies and that’s the soldiers in Ballymurphy,” Mr Teggart said.
“We need to focus on the Ministry of Defence and their delaying tactics up to now.”
Six Ballymurphy victims were killed close to an area in which the UVF was active
“The biggest obstacle to the inquest has been the MoD and failure to meet their obligations to the inquest, in particular to soldier tracing.”Solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh said he was also “sceptical” about the development.
Andrée Murphy from Relatives for Justice, who has worked on the case, said: “People should bear in mind the family’s narrative in no way should be undermined.”
Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said: “There is already a volume of evidence that the British Army were behind these killings and there would be a suspicion that this is merely aimed at deflecting from that.
"Equally, people would not be surprised to learn that, while the British army were firing on civilians, so too were the UVF.”
SDLP policing spokeswoman Dolores Kelly urged anyone with fresh information to make it known to the coroner.
“There can no longer be any hiding place for perpetrators within the ranks of all organisations,” she said.
“It is imperative that truth be the central tenant of legacy inquests so that justice can be done for all unanswered atrocities during the Troubles.”