A formal ‘apology’ by Boris Johnson in the House of Commons to the families of the Ballymurphy massacre victims has been condemned as partial and insincere.
His statement was just another disingenuous response by the British government to a damning judgement by the coroner who found the 10 people who shot dead by British soldiers in west Belfast were “entirely” innocent.
The inquest overturned decades of lies and smears by British officialdom, who had branded the victims as armed combatants and legitimate targets.
Instead, the British Army’s Parachute Regiment were found directly responsible for killing nine of the ten innocent civilians including a mother-of-eight and a Catholic priest over a 36-hour period in August 1971.
In self-serving remarks in the House of Commons, Mr Johnson said: “No apology can lessen the lasting pain.
“I hope they [the families] may take some comfort in the answers they have secured and in knowing that this has renewed the government’s determination to ensure in future that other families can find answers with less distress and delay.”
His statement was seen as merely setting the stage for a Tory plan to end prosecutions of Britain’s killer soldiers.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the so-called ‘apology’ had added “insult to injury”. Historian Diarmaid Ferriter condemned the statement as “weasel-worded and incomplete” and having to be “dragged out” of the Prime Minster.
Mr Johnson’s handling of the government’s response to the inquest’s findings has previously been condemned by the families as “third-hand” and “behind their backs”.
The Ballymurphy families were again given no advance notice of Johnson’s most recent statement.
John Teggart, whose father Daniel was one of those killed, said the statement was “totally unacceptable”. He said it should have focused on “our loved ones who were murdered” not how the investigation was handled.
He also ruled out ever now meeting Johnson saying he “wouldn’t waste a minute of his time with him”.
“I won’t be letting him annoy me any more, I have no time for him and his feeble attempts to apologise,” he said.
Mary Kate Quinn, whose uncle John Laverty was killed, said the families had found out about the statement from journalists.
“Yet again, that was not an apology,” she said. “Boris did not apologise for the killings of our loved ones.”
Ms McDonald added: “I think even though the truth now has been spoken that each of the victims of Ballymurphy were absolutely innocent, unarmed and posed no threat to anyone, the British prime minister still cannot accept and say out loud that a para regiment, that British soldiers, came and turned their guns on innocent civilians in that community.
“For so long as he is not capable of verbalising the truth of what happened on that day, and naming it and saying it out loud, I think we have a problem.
“The bigger problem beyond that is that Boris Johnson and his government are determined to deliver an amnesty for British soldiers and that is unacceptable to the Ballymurphy families, to many other families who still await truth and justice.
“It’s unacceptable to all strands of political opinion on this island north and south and in direct contravention of the Stormont House Agreement.
“I think the British prime minister should stick to the agreements that have been made and should accept that now the time is long past where he can hide from the truth of actions of British soldiers here in Ireland.”