Northern Ireland news

Ballymurphy Massacre inquest: 'It is a weight off my shoulders, it's been 50 years of serious hard grief and pain'

The Connolly family after Coroner Mrs Siobhan Keegan attributed nine of the ten shootings in the Ballymurphy Massacre, including that of their mum, Joan, to the British Army. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The son of one of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims says he felt a sense of relief after the coroner ruled the use of force in shooting his father Eddie Doherty was disproportionate.

Patrick Doherty said he wished his mother had lived long enough to hear the coroner's findings.

"It is a weight off my shoulders, it's been 50 years of serious hard grief and pain, I just feel serious relief.

"I wish my mother could have been here to see it. My mother died six years after my father and it is just relief.

"We have always known he was an innocent man, we have always known everyone was innocent and it took 50 years.

"There is a sense of happiness that we have finally cleared our loved ones' names.

"It has been a long fight. My father was shot in the back and murdered. My father wasn't in the IRA."

Edward (Eddie) Doherty (31)

The daughter of Joseph Corr said the inquest verdict had gone further than she had hoped.

Eileen McKeown said: "I was expecting them just to say they were innocent. But when she turned around and said that my daddy and John Laverty weren't gunmen, and never should have been branded gunmen, that was really brilliant to hear that."

She said the 50-year battle for justice had taken an enormous toll on her family.

"We have fought long and hard for this, for 50 years, to declare my daddy an innocent man.

"My mummy died knowing he was innocent but not getting any justice. I have lost four brothers to this, through the stress and the trauma that they had to live through.

"My brother Joe was with my daddy when he was shot. He lived with survivor's guilt for years because of the fact that he left his daddy."

Joseph Corr (43)

Ms McKeown said she had felt unable to speak about her father before because of the claims made against the Ballymurphy victims.

She said: "It's been a nightmare. No matter where you went, people would be asking you what happened to your daddy.

"You were afraid to say what happened to your daddy because he was shot, and because of what was written in the history books: that IRA gunmen were shot in Ballymurphy in 1979.

"People just presumed that they were guilty because of what was put out in the media and what the Army said."

Geraldine Douglas, another daughter of Joseph Corr, said: "It also means that the grandchildren and great-grandchildren don't have to keep fighting the way Eileen has fought for our family for all these years.

"The fight is won, big time."

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Joan Connolly (44)

Maura McGee, one of Joan Connolly's daughters, reacted to suggestions that the British government is seeking to prevent historic prosecutions of military veterans.

"I don't agree with an amnesty for anybody," she said.

"I think you have to go where the evidence leads you and if the evidence shows there was foul play whether you were wearing a uniform or a paramilitary uniform or you were wearing a T-shirt and jeans - if you killed someone you should answer for it."

On the ruling of her mother's innocence, she said: "We're absolutely delighted."

Mrs McGee spoke of the pain of having to conceal the circumstances of her mother's death for 50 years, due to the cloud of the unfounded allegation she was a gun woman. She said they often told people her mother had died in a car crash.

"We always knew she was innocent but to have her declared innocent in the eyes of the public and the rest of the world, it's something that we didn't expect would ever happen," she said.

Another of Mrs Connolly's daughter's Philomena Morrison said: "She was an innocent person and they took her from us and we lost out on having her all of those years."

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 Relatives of the 10 people killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre react to the coroner's finding that they were all innocent. Picture by Hugh Russell

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