Family members of eleven people killed by the British Army in west Belfast over 40 years ago met with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Thursday. In a break from his party’s policy, the Fine Gael leader backed their efforts for a new investigation into the deaths.
The families are campaigning for an independent panel to investigate the 1971 atrocity.
Padraig O Muirigh, the solicitor for the family, said the families want an independent investigation -- like that for the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster in Sheffield, England.
The Ballymurphy shootings took place hours after the British government introduced a policy of internment without trial in 1971. The Parachute Regiment opened fire on nationalists in their efforts to control the area. The British government has always maintained that those who died had been involved in a series of gun battles between the Paratroopers and the the IRA.
Families state they have uncovered a number of new witnesses and insisted their family members were “innocent and not armed - these weren’t gunmen or women”. One of those killed was a priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot as he went to the aid of a wounded man.
Mr O Muirigh said the aim of the families “is to get the truth”, adding they have waited over 40 years. “They have never been given a proper investigation into the death of their loved ones,” he said.
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the decision by the Taoiseach to finally meet with the families and commended the “dedication and commitment of the families who have worked tirelessly over many years to get to the truth of the deaths of their loved ones”.
Significantly, the meeting took place on the exact anniversary of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre of 14 anti-internment protestors by the Parachute Regiment in Derry.
Speaking after the meeting, John Teggart, whose father Daniel was among those killed, welcomed the Taoiseach’s support for their efforts to hold a new investigation.
“This is a significant development in our campaign for the truth. There is still much work to be done. We need the Irish government to persuade the British government of the merits of this proposal.
“We want to thank the Taoiseach for meeting us today and for making the right decision.”
Last year, the families said they wanted former police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan to chair an independent panel. Its remit would include examining all documents and papers relating to the deaths.
Earlier this week, the group travelled to Brussels to take their campaign for an independent investigation to Europe as part of a visit organised by Sinn Féin’s Martina Anderson.
Members of the European Parliament appeared visibly moved as families of victims of the Ballymurphy massacre, the Loughinisland atrocity and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings described their experiences.
Campaigners from the Pat Finucane Centre and victims group Relatives for Justice (RFJ) were also part of the group. The families made a joint submission to Irish MEPs urging them to bring pressure to bear on the issue of collusion between British Crown forces and loyalist paramilitaries.
Ms Anderson said she hoped the visit had given “hope and confidence” to families, some of whom have waited decades for justice. “This is a chance for them to share their experiences and also dispel the myth that the British were honest brokers in the conflict,” she said.