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Ballymurphy massacre families are told probe not in public interest

The Government has told the families of 11 people killed by British troops in the case known as the Ballymurphy Massacre that there will be no independent investigation of the deaths.

The relatives slammed the decision of Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson and pledged to continue their campaign.

The innocent civilians who died after being shot and beaten by members of the Parachute Regiment in 1971 included a mother of eight and a Catholic priest tending to the wounded.

The deaths occurred during a security operation in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast that stretched across August 9-11 following the introduction of internment without trial.

Military claims at the time that the victims were armed republicans were discredited and the families have called for an examination of the true facts of the case - which has been linked to the killing of civilians by the same regiment on Bloody Sunday in Derry.

A spokesman for the families said they are "deeply disappointed" by Mr Paterson's decision to turn down their request for an independent investigation.

"Mr Paterson, in his letter, has stated that it 'would not be in the public interest' that an Independent Investigation be established," they said.

"We refute this assertion and believe that is clearly in the 'public interest' that the full facts relating to the circumstances of the deaths of our loved ones and the role of the British Parachute Regiment is fully established.

"This is especially so given the recent findings of Lord Saville in relation to the events of Bloody Sunday and the disclosure of official British Government documents which reveal evidence of immunity for British soldiers involved in the murder of innocent civilians."

Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin has ordered that the inquests into the deaths be re-opened.

But the families rejected advice they said they received from Mr Paterson that other avenues were open to them, including the police Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which is examining murders from the Troubles.

The relatives said the HET's handling of cases where soldiers were responsible for deaths had been criticised in a major report into its work.

The relatives said: "Although the families regard the re-opening of the inquests by the Attorney General as a very important step on our journey for truth, we believe that even a fully resourced and effective inquest will have limitations.

"It will be able to provide facts and gather crucial forensic, logistical and witness testimony evidence, but it will not be able to examines the causes, context and consequences of the massacre and answer so many of the questions that must be answered.

"We believe that only an independent investigation can facilitate the discovery of the facts and provide an accurate historical account of the events of August 1971 on the streets of Ballymurphy."

They repeated a call for Prime Minister David Cameron to meet directly with the families.

The campaigners also asked for Irish premier Enda Kenny to back their cause, in the way he has publicly supported the family of solicitor Pat Finucane who was killed by loyalists acting in collusion with security forces.

Belfast Telegraph