NEW inquests into the deaths of civilians, one as young as 13, shot dead by the British army during the 1972 Springhill Massacre are to be opened.

Attorney General John Larkin directed the fresh inquests on Wednesday into the July 9, 1972 killings of 13-year-old Margaret Gargan, 16-year-old John Dougal, 14-year-old David McCafferty and 38-year-old Westrock Drive father-of-six Patrick Butler.

Fr Noel Fitzpatrick, a priest at St John’s church on the Falls Road but based at Corpus Christi Church in Springhill at the time, was also shot dead while administering the last rites to victims.

Solicitor for the families, Pádraig Ó Muirigh, said: “‘The Springhill Massacre families welcome the decision by the Attorney General to direct fresh inquests into the circumstances of the death of their loved ones. This decision is a significant step forward in their campaign for truth. It is imperative that this inquest is held within a reasonable timeframe and is adequately resourced to ensure Article 2 compliance.”

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey also welcomed the announcement. “The families have campaigned tirelessly for the truth and I commend their dignity and fortitude in bringing the campaign to this stage,” he said.

“The holding of the inquests is a step forward in getting to that truth and I hope that it will help bring justice to the families concerned.

“The announcement by Attorney General John Larkin that inquests are to be held is welcome news for the families.”