POLITICAL representatives and community groups from across West Belfast have given a unanimous welcome to the decision by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland, John Larkin QC, to order the reopening of the inquests into the deaths of 10 of those who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre.
West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said the decision “moved the campaign for justice for the Ballymurphy victims a step closer”.
“But while this is an advance in the campaign, it should not be seen as fulfilling the demands of the families to a full independent international inquiry,” he said.
“The call for such an inquiry has received support from a wide spectrum of human rights organisations and from Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Conor. The original inquests were a cynical exercise in cover-up and smear against the victims, who included a Catholic priest and a mother of eight children. Eyewitnesses’ evidence was not taken and British army members’ statements were prepared in advance and presented to the judge without any opportunity for cross examination.
“Sinn Féin will continue to support the families in their campaign for justice and for an independent international inquiry into the deaths of their loved ones.”
Deputy Director of Relatives for Justice (RFJ), Andrée Murphy, who has worked closely with the families in their campaign for justice, said: “Their courage and determination has been a privilege to witness.”
She went on: “RFJ welcomes the fact that at last the legal system has identified the abject failings regarding the initial investigations of the time,” she said.
“The granting of fresh inquests is undoubtedly a milestone for the families in their campaign to secure an independent international investigation, acknowledgement from the British government of the horrendous crimes committed and the impact that this had on all of the families for the decades since, and a full public apology for all of this.”
West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said the Attorney General’s decision “underlined the need for a full international inquiry into the atrocity”.
“The decision by the Attorney General on the Ballymurphy Massacre is a step in the right direction,” said the SDLP Environment Minister. “This decision vindicates the campaign of the families for truth and justice.
“This development, however, serves to confirm that it is a public, international inquiry that is needed to give the families the means to truth that their campaign demands. I again call on the Prime Minister in London and the Taoiseach in Dublin, along with Denis Bradley and Lord Eames, to support the families’ request.”
Another West Belfast MLA, Sinn Féin’s Pat Sheehan, said: “This campaign has been going on for 40 years now and this news is a giant leap forward.
“The only concern now is that the military establishment will try to block attempts by the family to get at the truth and there will be delays and so forth, but we’re confident that we are moving into a new phase of the campaign and the families are up for the fight. Hopefully the truth will out.”
SDLP Upper Falls Councillor Tim Attwood said the inquest announcement was a “significant step”.
“The families have suffered for far too long so this is a small but a significant step in getting justice,” he said.
“Hopefully they will get better information and a better understanding of what happened as we move towards getting an international and independent investigation.”
Alliance Lagan Valley MLA Trevor Lunn, who has thrown his support behind the families in their ongoing campaign for justice, said it was “a good day for the families”.
“I’m very pleased for them. I think it’s a good decision by the Attorney General and I hope the inquest can begin as quickly as possible as the families do not need further delays,” he said. “It’s been 40 years already and we need to move it forward now.”