Claims that a deceased unionist paramilitary may have been responsible for the deaths of victims of the Ballymurphy Massacre have been treated with scepticism by the relatives of those who died.
An inquest is due to begin in September to look at the actions of British soldiers in the shooting of ten people in August 1971. A preliminary hearing in the inquest is scheduled to take place later this month.
The paramilitary UVF have now claimed that one of its members killed some of the victims.
The shootings which took place over three days have long been attributed to the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, although other soldiers were also present.
Among those who died was a Catholic priest, Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot while tending to one victims, and a mother-of-eight, Joan Connolly. Many of the victims were shot by snipers as they were simply going about their daily lives. An eleventh victim died of a heart attack following a confrontation with the British soldiers.
It was later claimed by the British that some of the dead were killed by their soldiers during “gun battles”.
John Teggart, whose father Daniel was shot dead, said relatives were dubious about the UVF claims, particularly their timing.
“We have been waiting 47 years and what we don’t need is a paramilitary organisation trying to muddy the waters,” he said. “They are not trying to help the families, they are trying to distract from what the focus needs to be on.”
While some of the British troops present at the time have been identified, the majority have not. The British military has been accused of dragging its feet tracking down former soldiers.
“We need to put the focus back on where it lies and that’s the soldiers in Ballymurphy,” Mr Teggart said. “We need to focus on the Ministry of Defence and their delaying tactics up to now.”
Sinn Fein policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said there was already a volume of evidence that the British Army were behind the killings and there was suspicion that these reports were aimed at deflecting from that.
He added: “Equally, people would not be surprised to learn that, while the British army were firing on civilians, so too were the UVF.”
He said that any new evidence that may help the families should be brought forward, “but what we have at the minute is information, not evidence.
“The UVF say they will engage through an interlocutor but for it to have any value, a statement has to be directly from those involved so we will have to wait and see how significant this intervention actually is.”
Mr Kelly added that “the UVF as an organisation should have been gone a long time ago” and that many would be suspicious about their motivations for an intervention at this time.