The British Direct Ruler Theresa Villiers has been condemned for ruling out calls for an inquiry into the Ballymurphy killings during a vigil last Sunday marking the 43rd anniversary of the deaths.
Ms Villiers’s rejection of an independent probe into the massacre was yesterday branded “utterly wrong” and shameful by SDLP deputy leader Dolores Kelly, who also praised the families for their dignity.
Relatives have been campaigning for an independent panel review into the 1971 atrocity in which 10 people were shot dead by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy in west Belfast. Among the dead were a priest and mother of eight.
An eleventh man died from a heart attack a short time after a soldier is believed to have put an empty gun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has backed the families’ calls for an inquiry, along with the British Labour party, Sinn Fein and the Alliance party.
In April Ms Villiers said she did not believe such a review would uncover evidence not already in the public domain. But just weeks later, the British Army admitted it had still not identified all the paratroopers involved in the massacre. The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) also claimed it would be “impossible” to trace the weapons used.
The disclosures were made during a preliminary hearing in Belfast ahead of a new inquest. The next preliminary inquest hearing will take place in September.
Kathleen McCarry who lost her brother Eddie Doherty called for truth and justice and said the families would not be silenced.
Ms Kelly said it was a “cause of anger” that relatives of victims continued to be denied justice.
“The secretary of state is utterly wrong in her decision to state that it is not in the public interest to have a panel investigation,” she said. “Just like the Bloody Sunday campaign, the terrible loss of life, the innocence of those killed and the denial of truth makes the Ballymurphy campaign a very important one. Your campaign deserves the support and attention of everyone.
Sinn Fein assembly member Jennifer McCann also called on the British government to establish an independent inquiry. “I want to commend the Ballymurphy massacre families,” she said.
“Their courage and determination in the face of great obstacles is a lesson to us all. We must redouble our efforts to help them establish publicly the truth of the events of August 1971.”