The Ballymurphy Massacre Families have spoken of their pain following revelations that the retained organs and other body tissue parts of five of the deceased were retained from their original postmortems in 1971.
Ten people, including a mother of 10 and a priest, were killed in the Ballymurphy area over a period of 36 hours in August 1971. A fresh inquest earlier this year found that they had been murdered by the British Army in Ballymurphy in August in 1971, were “entirely innocent” and their killings “unjustifiable”.
Loved one’s of Frank Quinn, Joan Connolly, Joseph Corr, John McKerr and Joseph Murphy – who were killed during the massacre – have been informed by Coroner’s Office that tissue samples were retained.
The families made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday. They said the samples were held without their knowledge or consent.
Briege Voyle, who lost her mother Joan Connolly during the massacre, told of the family’s “devastation” following the latest revelations from the Coroner’s Office.
She said the new information raised questions about why the samples were retained and why the families were not notified.
“When did the State Pathology and/or PSNI become aware that tissue samples were still in existence and why were they not informed earlier of this matter as required in law under the Human Tissue Act 2004?” she asked.
“Ballymurphy families were granted new inquests in 2011, they concluded in May 2021, why was this issue not brought to the attention of Lady Chief Justice, Siobhan Keegan, when she was presiding over the recent Ballymurphy Inquest?”
She added: “How many times do we have to bury our loved ones?”
Meanwhile, relatives of those killed in the conflict are to challenge the London government’s proposals for a conflict amnesty in an address to the United Nations on Thursday. They will make a statement along with Amnesty International to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The British plan would bring an immediate end to the criminal prosecutions of Crown forces and their agents currently facing investigation for for their part in war crimes. It would also ban all police investigations into conflict-related incidents and bar legacy inquests or civil cases.
The plans are opposed by Amnesty UK, victims groups, the main political parties North and South, the Irish government and prominent Irish-American politicians and diplomats, among others.
A ‘National Day of Action’ takes place across Ireland on September 25, organised by the Time for Truth Campaign.
Spokesman Ciarán Mac Airt said: “The families of the Time for Truth Campaign are mobilising across the 32 counties of Ireland to tell Boris Johnson and Brandon Lewis that all families have a right to truth and justice.
“We are mobilising to protect our basic human rights and will demand no less than equal access to due legal process and investigations which are compliant with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”