Northern Ireland news

Video: Relatives of victims killed by British army hit out at amnesty plans

Ballymurphy Massacre families including Eileen McKeown (Daughter of Joseph Corr), Mary Corr (Daughter in law of Joseph Corr ), Irene Connolly (daughter of Joan Connolly ) and Kathleen McCarry (Sister of Edward Doherty). Picture by Mal McCann
Seamus McKinney and Rebecca Black

BEREAVED relatives who lost loved ones in shootings involving soldiers have hit out at the proposed statute of limitations on legacy prosecutions.

Victims described Secretary of State Brandon Lewis' proposals as a "betrayal".

Families of 10 people killed in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in 1971 came together to watch Mr Lewis' statement to the House of Commons yesterday.

A fresh inquest into the deaths of the woman and nine men earlier this year found they were "entirely innocent".

Eileen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr, said they see the proposed statute of limitations as the British government's "cynical attempt to bring an amnesty and a plan to bury its war crimes".

She said the proposals "will not be tolerated and will be legally challenged".

"The Ballymurphy Massacre inquest findings show how the law should work independently," she said.

"All victims need to know the truth, they need to know what happened to their loved ones.

"We all bleed the same blood so everybody needs truth and justice and then maybe they can start living their lives.

"We spent 50 years trying to prove that our loved ones were innocent, there are loads of families out there like us and they all need to know the same thing."

Irene Connolly (daughter of Joan Connolly) watches as Secretary of State Brandon Lewis confirms the government will seek to introduce a statute of limitations on Troubles-related killings. Picture by Mal McCann

Michael O'Hare, whose 12-year-old sister Majella was shot by a soldier in 1976, said the legacy proposals were an "utter and unacceptable betrayal".

Mr O'Hare, supported by Amnesty, is calling for an independent investigation into the killing.

He said: "The UK Government is inflicting great pain on my family and other victims denied justice.

"Our Majella had her life cruelly robbed, at the tender age of 12, by bullets from a soldier's machine gun. She was an innocent child with her whole life ahead of her.

"The Ministry of Defence apologised to my family, but a proper investigation has never happened. The UK Government is now trying to deny us meaningful truth and justice forever.

"I will never stop fighting for Majella, my sister deserves justice. I hope these proposals are firmly rejected. I call on all parties involved to end the perpetual cycle of victims being failed."

The Bloody Sunday families reacted with fury.

Schoolgirl Majella O'Hare was shot dead in 1976

The Director of Public Prosecutions announced this month that a case against Soldier F for the murder of William McKinney and Jim Wray, would be discontinued.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was shot dead, described the plans and some of the comments from the government benches in Westminster as “obscene”.

"It is saying that people here should never see justice. Brandon Lewis must think Irish people are stupid if he thinks we would accept this. It is clear that Brandon Lewis thinks nothing of the people of Ireland; he’s saying Irish lives don't matter when it comes to protecting his soldiers,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Kelly was also highly critical of some of the comments made by Conservative backbenches in response to the government plans.

"There was one who said that every soldier who served in the north was a victim; is he seriously saying that the guy who shot my brother, Michael, dead is as much a victim as Michael. They're trying to create a new class of victimhood; that’s obscene," he said.

Kate Nash, whose brother William was shot dead and whose father, Alex was shot and wounded, said the “fight for justice” would continue.

"We knew it was coming but, even knowing, there was a wee bit of hope that when it came to it, someone would do the right think. But we’re not going to allow a British government to deny us justice just to protect their soldiers,” Ms Nash said.

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