Boris Johnson’s public apology over Ballymurphy massacre branded ‘insincere’ by victims

Boris Johnson’s public apology over Ballymurphy massacre branded ‘insincere’ by victims

BORIS JOHNSON’S formal House of Commons apology over the Ballymurphy massacre has been rejected by the families of those killed.

Johnson issued the apology a week after Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan determined the 10 people killed in the shootings involving British soldiers in west Belfast in August 1971 were “entirely innocent”.

The coroner also ruled that the Army was responsible for nine of the 10 deaths. A mother-of-eight and a Catholic priest were among those killed.

Speaking at the opening of Prime Minister’s Questions, Johnson read out the names of the 10 people killed in shootings involving British soldier in west Belfast in August 1971.

He then went on to apologise “for how the investigations were handled” and for the pain suffered by the families of those killed.

"On behalf of successive governments and to put on the record in this house I would like to say sorry to their families for how the investigations were handled and for the pain they have endured since their campaign began almost five decades ago," Johnson said.

"No apology can lessen their lasting pain I hope they take some comfort in the answers they have secured and in knowing that this has renewed the Government’s determination to ensure in future that other families can find answers with less distress and delay."

The apology was not well received by some family members of those killed in Ballymurphy, who slammed it as “insincere” and simply “not an apology.”

It came in the wake of the criticism faced by the UK Prime Minister for not previously addressing the outcome of the Ballymurphy inquest in the Commons.

Johnson had previously apologised in a private phone call with First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill and again in a letter to the families.

However, he had, until this week, stopped short of making a public statement in parliament in a move that angered many of the victims of the massacre.

John Teggart’s father, Daniel, was among those killed in Ballymurphy.

Speaking to the BBC he described Johnson’s apology as “totally unacceptable” and “totally insincere.

He hit out at the Prime Minister for focusing on the handling of the initial investigation into the Ballymurphy killings in his apology rather than “our loved ones who were murdered.”

Teggart said Johnson’s words had “caused annoyance to the families” and that he “personally rejects” the apology made by the Conservative Party leader.

He also dismissed the idea of ever meeting Johnson face-to-face, saying he “wouldn’t waste a minute of his time with him”.

"I won't be letting him annoy me anymore, I have no time for him and his feeble attempts to apologise," he said.

John Laverty was another of those killed in Ballymurphy.

Commenting on the Prime Minister’s statement, his niece Mary Kate Quinn revealed the Balllymurphy families "were not informed" of his plans to apologise in the Commons.

She said: "Yet again, that was not an apology. Boris did not apologise for the killings of our loved ones."

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald was similarly critical of Johnson’s comments.

"I don’t think he has delivered anything that approximates a sincere or complete apology," she said.

"For so long as he is not capable of verbalising the truth of what happened on that day, and naming it and saying it out loud, I think we have a problem.

"The bigger problem beyond that is that Boris Johnson and his government are determined to deliver an amnesty for British soldiers and that is unacceptable to the Ballymurphy families, to many other families who still await truth and justice."

Despite pledging in parliament to address the legacy of the Troubles, Johnson also reaffirmed his commitment to new legislation that would protect veterans "from unfair, vexatious litigation where no new evidence has been brought forward."

That could see prosecutions for alleged crimes committed before the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 banned under a statute of limitations.