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Editor's Viewpoint: Seeking the truth amid the memories

If anyone is in any doubt about how difficult it is to unravel the truth about Northern Ireland's past they should simply read the reports in this newspaper today. The reports relate to a small number of incidents in one part of Belfast in a very short time frame in 1971.

Yet we are still no closer to learning the truth of what happened on those troubled days. Some facts are incontrovertible - 10 people were shot dead in Ballymurphy by the Army and another died of a heart attack; a young soldier was also shot dead though there are doubts over the conviction of a local man for his killing.

The Historical Enquiries Team which has been tasked with investigating past killings is currently scouring the world looking for former paratroopers who were stationed in Ballymurphy at the time.

One paratrooper told this newspaper he fired a number of shots and said other soldiers also opened fire because they feared being overwhelmed by a hostile crowd. But that is just part of the jigsaw of what happened.

A public inquiry has been ruled out by Secretary of State Owen Paterson, obviously keen to avoid any more lengthy and costly inquiries, after the Blood Sunday probe cost almost £200m.

So how are relatives to find out the truth, and who was responsible for their loved ones' deaths?

Re-opened inquests may provide some answers, but only if all relevant witnesses can be traced and agree to give evidence.

Otherwise, they may have to rely on testimony in books or in the media of people like the paratrooper who spoke to this newspaper.

There must be every sympathy for all the bereaved relatives in Northern Ireland who still want to know the truth.

As the Ballymurphy case proves there is a compelling need for some sort of truth and reconciliation process here, but will the state and former paramilitaries agree to co-operate?

Since we cannot even agree on the definition of a victim, hopes of truth recovery must be slim.