Northern Ireland news

Relatives gather to hear findings of the inquest into the Ballymurphy Massacre

Civilians shot dead by the British army in Ballymurphy in 1971 in what came to be known as the Ballymurphy Massacre. Top row, from left, Joseph Corr, Danny Teggart, Eddie Doherty, Fr Hugh Mullan and Frank Quinn. Bottom row from left, Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Phillips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy
Rebecca Black, PA and Digital Staff

Relatives have gathered to hear the findings of the inquest into the Ballymurphy Massacre.

Findings will be published at around lunchtime following fresh inquests into the fatal shooting of 10 people in disputed circumstances involving the British Army in west Belfast 50 years ago.

The coroner will deliver her findings at 11am in the Waterfront Hall with members of each family present. Other family members will watch a livestream in courtroom 13 at Laganside courts complex and the verdict will be livestreamed in Corpus Christi Church in Ballymurphy and St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast. The findings will not be made public until the coroner has finished reading her verdict which is expected to be at around 1pm.

The Ballymurphy families are due to hold a press conference at 4pm and at 7pm there will be a cavalcade by families and supporters in Ballymurphy. 

A mother of eight and a Catholic priest were among those who died in August 1971 in events which have become known locally as the Ballymurphy Massacre. Over the course of three days 57 children lost a parent.

 Families of those killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre on their way to hear the coroner's verdict in the inquest into the killings. Picture by Hugh Russell

It came during a turbulent period following the controversial introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland at the start of the Troubles.

Violence erupted on August 9 when soldiers moved into republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects.

Original inquests into the Ballymurphy deaths in 1972 returned open verdicts and the bereaved families subsequently pursued a long campaign for fresh probes to be held.

New inquests began in 2018, with the final oral evidence heard last March.

 Mary Kate Quinn, Carmel Quinn, Rita Bonner and Geraldine McAllister embrace this morning before the coroner delivers her findings following an inquest into the Ballymurphy Massacre. Their loved one John Laverty was among those killed. Picture by Hugh Russell

Read More: Ballymurphy Inquest: A 20-year campaign for recognition and justice

Eye-witnesses, forensic experts, former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and more than 60 former soldiers – including former head of the Army General Sir Mike Jackson – gave evidence at Belfast Coroner’s Court.

The families of those killed contend they were innocent, unarmed civilians shot by soldiers without justification.

Relatives attended Mass yesterday ahead of the findings and described their feeling that today would be a hard and anxious day.

Briege Voyle said the pain of losing her mother, Joan Connolly, was made even harder when misinformation was circulated that she had been a gunwoman.

Ms Voyle told the PA news agency that she is praying Ms Connolly’s name will finally be cleared on the official record five decades later.

l-r Mary Kate Quinn, Carmel Quinn, Rita Bonner and Geraldine McAllister whose loved one John Laverty was killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre. Picture by Hugh Russell

Father Hugh Mullan was shot after he had crawled to waste ground where a man had been shot to administer the Last Rites.

His brother, Patsy, described him as simply wanting to help people.

“My brother was not involved in anything other than going out to help somebody,” he said.

“He was a priest and anointed a man; as he left him to go and try and get an ambulance he was shot.”

The findings are due on a day that an intention by the British Government to ban future prosecutions of British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland is expected to be outlined in the Queen’s Speech.

It has been reported that the move will also apply to former paramilitaries.

Troubles victims and politicians across Ireland voiced anger at the expected move last week when it was reported in the Daily Telegraph and the Times.

 Ballymurphy families arrive at court to hear the coroner's verdict on May 11 2021. Picture by Hugh Russell

  Families of those killed in the Ballymurphy Massacre on their way to hear the coroner's verdict in the inquest into the killings. Picture by Hugh Russell

Ian Knox cartoon 7/5/21 

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