Northern Ireland news

Ballymurphy victim's daughter warns against prevention of historic prosecutions

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
David Young and Jonathan McCambridge, PA

The daughter of a woman shot by the British Army 50 years ago has criticised suggestions that the British government is seeking to prevent historic prosecutions of military veterans.

The Queen’s Speech today did not contain a Bill on legacy investigations, but a proposed new system is expected to focus on “information recovery and reconciliation” rather than criminal prosecutions which are unlikely to succeed.

Maura McGee, whose mother Joan Connolly was shot by a soldier in Ballymurphy in 1971, said: “I don’t agree with an amnesty for anybody.

“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.”

Solicitor for the Ballymurphy families Pádraig Ó Muirigh said he had not seen the proposals in the Queen’s Speech but described any suggestion of an amnesty as “disgraceful”.

He said: “Any suggestion of an amnesty for soldiers is a disgraceful derogation of commitments.

“It won’t be any great surprise to the families who have been treated with contempt by the British government for so long and they would argue there was already a de-facto amnesty in place during the conflict. The coroner commented quite a bit on the lack of investigations.

“No great shock but that does not make it any less disgraceful.”

Speaking in the Dail, Taoiseach Micheál Martin criticised plans by the British government to end legacy investigations in Northern Ireland outlined in the Queens’ Speech.

He said: “We’re very, very clear on this. The legacy of violence remains a deep wound.

 Ten candles symbolising the 10 people shot dead in Ballymurphy in August 1971. A coroner today ruled that all 10 were innocent victims. Picture by Mal McCann

“It must be dealt with, but the framework for dealing with it is in the Stormont House Agreement, that was agreed by the two governments and all the political parties.”

Dublin's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the verdict in the Ballymurphy inquest highlighted the need for full investigations into legacy killings.

He said: “The deaths at Ballymurphy were part of the tragic legacy of the Troubles which saw the loss of over 3,500 lives from all communities.

“Every family bereaved in the conflict must have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice regardless of the perpetrator. All victims’ families deserve support in securing all the information possible about what happened to their loved ones.

“Only through a collective approach can we hope to deal with these issues comprehensively and fairly, and in a way that responds to the needs of victims and survivors, and society as a whole.”

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