Michelle O'Neill hails Ballymurphy massacre inquest findings as 'a day for truth'
DEPUTY first minister Michelle O'Neill last night hailed the findings of the Ballymurphy massacre inquest as "a day for truth".
The Sinn Féin northern leader said relatives of those killed "have been vindicated".
"For five decades they have campaigned with dignity and determination for the truth about what happened to their loved ones and despite all the setbacks they have kept going with such resilience and resolve," she said.
"Today is their day; it is a day for truth.
"What happened in Ballymurphy was state murder and for decades the British government have covered it up. Now the truth has been laid bare for all to see."
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Alliance leader Naomi Long said it "should not have taken 50 years for them to get to today’s outcome".
"To have it finally put into public record they truth they have stated all these years - they were entirely innocent - is justification for their brave stand and dedicated campaigning for so many years," she said.
"The UK government now needs to step up and formally apologise for the actions of the army on the day in question."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the findings were "an absolute vindication of the long campaign for truth that these families have waged".
"They have stood against attempts to blacken the names of their loved ones, attempts to deny the truth and re-write the past," he said.
"Today they can stand proudly in the knowledge that their friends and family were entirely innocent of wrongdoing and the whole world knows it."
Scenes in Ballymurphy last night as the families of those who died in 1971 thanked the community for their support in their campaign to exonerate their loved ones— David Young (@DavidYoungPA) May 12, 2021
Families also made clear their opposition to any amnesty on Troubles prosecutions@Razorpix @aislingrosennis @PA pic.twitter.com/WYUYABb1ih
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the inquest had allowed people who were killed and who were innocent "to have their case put forward".
He said that moving forward a legacy process was needed which "enables innocent victims - particularly those who were victims of terrorism - to have the opportunity of access to justice".
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was never in any doubt that the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre were innocent.
"Our first thoughts today are with the families of those killed following that terrible violence and atrocities in Ballymurphy on those three terrible days in August, 1971," he told the Dáil.
"I do recall visiting the site at the time and meeting with the relatives. I was in never in any doubt that these innocent citizens were killed without any justification and that they were entirely innocent. The inquest has found that."
He added: "It's been a very harrowing experience for many, many relatives. There have been many false dawns in terms of trying to get closure or trying to get justice in relation to this."
Dublin's foreign minister Simon Coveney said the findings will come as "an immense relief and vindication for the families who have maintained for decades that their loved ones were innocent and their killings unjustified".
Labour shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh said the inquest's conclusions were "irrefutable" and the deaths were "without justification".
"For these families, the standard to which we hold ourselves as a nation of laws has fallen far short. Many more families affected by the conflict are, too, still fighting for answers," she said.
Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor welcomed the verdict and praised the "strong sense of solidarity" among relatives of those killed.
"These families who have been drawn together in sorrow and bereavement are also united in courage and hope," he said.
"With the publication of the inquest today, they have been vindicated in protecting the innocence of their relatives.
"It is a sad indictment on our society and state that these families have had to listen to misinformation and untruth propagated about their loved ones for almost 50 years."
Right Rev Dr David Bruce, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, said: "For the Ballymurphy families, today’s findings are a long awaited public declaration of the innocence of their loved ones.
"As they take in the news that they have waited 50 years to hear, it reminds us once more of the tragic and shattering past that Northern Ireland has witnessed, and the legacy of those times half a century on."