Ballymurphy Massacre victims want Hillsborough-style inquiry

Ballymurphy Massacre victims want Hillsborough-style inquiry

FAMILIES of the Ballymurphy Massacre victims have stepped up their campaign for a Hillsborough-style inquiry to clear their loved ones’ names.

Children of the 11 people killed by British paratroopers in Belfast more than 40 years ago recently travelled to Westminster to lobby MPs for an independent investigation.

They claim that, like the 96 people who died in the Hillsborough disaster, the Ballymurphy casualties have been victims of a major cover-up.

All 11, which included a priest and a mother-of-eight, were branded as gun-wielding republican paramilitaries after their deaths.

John Teggart, whose father died after being shot 14 times in the incident, told The Irish Post the families have gathered information which they believe clears their loved ones’ names.

The campaign has been backed by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, who described the Ballymurphy Massacre as “one of the lasting tragedies of the conflict in Northern Ireland”.

A total of 10 people were shot and killed by British Army soldiers over three days in Ballymurphy in August 1971. Another died after suffering a heart attack.

The Army said it fired in response to shots from republican paramilitaries.

The killings took place during Operation Demetrius, when people suspected of paramilitary activity were interned.

“My father was branded an IRA gunman,” Mr Teggart said.

“All these people, including the Catholic priest, were branded as gunmen and Joan Connolly as a gunwoman. We need to change the official version of what is still around 42 years later.”

The campaigners say they were told in 2012 by then Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson that an inquiry “would not be in the public interest”.

But Mr Teggart believes an investigation similar to that of the Hillsborough Independent Panel is a “realistic approach to dealing with the past”, and would cost the taxpayer less than £500,000.

The families have drawn up proposals for a Ballymurphy panel chaired by the North’s first Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan.

It would also include Birmingham Six lawyer Gareth Peirce.

“There needs to be a political will for dealing with the past,” Mr Teggart explained.

“We have the evidence. We know the truth. It is there in black and white and this is a realistic approach.

“It cannot be said that it is not in the public interest for less than £500,000 to investigate the deaths of 11 people.”

The campaigner added that the families have compiled eye-witness statements, autopsy reports, forensics reports and other documents showing that the 11 were “not near firearms”.

As The Irish Post went to press the Ballymurphy families were due to address MPs in Westminster, at a meeting facilitated by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell.

Referring to the Ballymurphy victims as “unarmed civilians”, Mr McDonnell said: “No investigations have ever been carried out and nobody has ever been held to account.”

During their time in Westminster, the families were expected to brief all SDLP MPs on their campaign before holding an open meeting for all MPs. Mr Teggart said they also intended to meet British Government officials.