An “efficient, robust and independent” inquiry into the 1971 Ballymurphy killings is needed to ensure a better quality of life for Northern Ireland as part of a shared future, a senior bishop said yesterday.
Down and Connor Bishop Noel Treanor was speaking as the Catholic Church released previously unseen documents on the killings of 11 people by British soldiers between August 9-11 in west Belfast.
After meeting the families of those killed, the bishop called for an independent inquiry and Government apology.
He said it should be possible “to find a mechanism of investigation into these and other events of the Troubles” to “ensure that how we deal with the past contributes to the well-being and quality of life of everyone in our society now and in the future”.
The documents were complied by Canon Padraig Murphy, parish priest in Ballymurphy at the time.
They include eyewitness statements taken just weeks after the shootings.
Among the dead were Catholic Priest Fr Hugh Mullan — shot as he administered the Last Rites to another victim — and mother-of-eight Joan Connolly.
Dr Treanor yesterday described the events of in Ballymurphy as a “disturbing prelude to the events of Bloody Sunday only six months later”.
Some of the paratroopers at Ballymurphy were present at Bloody Sunday.
The troops claimed they opened fire after being shot at by republicans.
Bishop Treanor continued: “The families of those killed and injured rightly wonder as we all do, what could have been avoided.
“Instead, as in Bloody Sunday, the reputations of those who were killed and injured were actively besmirched and the evidence of reliable eyewitnesses was either ignored or actively discredited.”
Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was killed, described the bishop’s support as “a renewed start” for the victims’ families.
Briege was 14 when her mother was shot six to eight times, including in her head and a shoulder.
Her mother’s last words to her were “the loyalists would shoot you, but the Army won’t”.
“My mother truly believed the Army would never shoot her. So when she walked out of that field she walked as calm as anything.
“She was well-dressed, had bright red hair, it was daylight and they murdered her. They called her a gun-mother,” she said
Briege said she has been fighting for justice for years. She added: “It is fantastic the Catholic Church have decided to come on board and back our campaign.”