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Ballymurphy massacre probe call backed


Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson is to meet relatives of the Ballymurphy massacre next month

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson is to meet relatives of the Ballymurphy massacre next month

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson is to meet relatives of the Ballymurphy massacre next month

Families whose loved ones were killed by British troops on Bloody Sunday have backed calls for an investigation into similar deaths in Belfast.

The Catholic Church has already supported demands for an examination into the events of the Ballymurphy Massacre when 11 people in the west Belfast district were shot dead by troops from the Parachute Regiment in August 1971.

A Catholic priest was among those killed and campaigners will press their call for an independent investigation when they meet Northern Ireland Secretary of State Owen Paterson next month.

Earlier this year the government apologised for the conduct of Parachute Regiment troops after a damning inquiry into their conduct on Bloody Sunday when they killed 14 civil rights marchers in Londonderry in 1972.

Today John Kelly, whose 17 year old brother Michael was killed in the Derry shootings, said he shared the belief of the Ballymurphy families that there are links between the events.

Mr Kelly said: "The Ballymurphy massacre happened six months before Bloody Sunday. It and many other murders by the British Army around that time, helped set the precedent that British soldiers were immune from prosecution and knew that they could, would and did get away with murder.

"We know that the agencies of the British state, from the government down through the prosecution services, helped to promote and encourage this culture of immunity.

"Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday stand side by side in history as massacres carried out by the British Army. I can tell you that after the Saville report they will not get away with murdering our loved ones and they hopefully be brought to justice at long last.

"We have achieved some justice with the publication of the Saville Report, and we hope that the families here can get the same."

The Ballymurphy shootings took place over a three-day period when the Army entered the republican area after the Northern Ireland government introduced the controversial policy of internment without trial.

The policy was said to be aimed at rounding-up suspected paramilitaries, but its focus on nationalist areas and the arrest of large numbers of people uninvolved in violence, served to heighten tensions.

Young Catholic priest Hugh Mullan was among those killed by soldiers in Ballymurphy.

Campaigners have said he was shot as he waved a white cloth while going to the aid of a wounded man.

They said evidence exists to confirm the other ten people killed were unarmed civilians.

Today bereaved relatives met politicians at the Northern Ireland Assembly. While the bereaved said they did not expect an inquiry on the scale of the almost £200million probe into Bloody Sunday, they said they wanted an independent investigation of events.

The families were supported by Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

He said: "In July the Catholic Church released archive documents surrounding the events in Ballymurphy in August 1971.

"This included new eyewitness accounts which lend support to the families opinion that vital evidence was withheld.

"The demand of the families is very clear. They want truth.

"The families are campaigning for an independent international investigation into the circumstances of the 11 deaths and a statement of innocence and apology from the British Government."

Belfast Telegraph