29/04/2014

NI Secretary Denies Ballymurphy Inquest

NI Secretary Theresa Villiers has decided against opening an independent review into the Ballymurphy massacre of 1971, in which 10 people were shot by British paratroopers in west Belfast. An 11th person died of a heart attack during the incident.

Ms Villiers said: "I have met the families who lost loved ones in Ballymurphy and I was very moved to hear their personal stories of pain and loss, and by their shared sense of determination. I have taken time to consider their proposal for an independent review panel, which I received last summer.

"In my view, the balance of public interest does not favour establishing an independent review. I do not believe that such a review would provide answers which are not already in the public domain or covered by existing legal processes.

"I would like to reiterate my deepest sympathy and condolences for the families who were bereaved in August 1971. I am aware that this decision is not the outcome the families had hoped for. Having met them - and other families affected by other incidents throughout the Troubles - I know that the passage of time does not ease the pain and hurt felt about the loss of loved ones. I am willing to meet with the Ballymurphy families and their representatives again, if they wish."

The Secretary of State's announcement follows a fresh inquest into the Ballymurphy shooting in November 2011, which was opened by the Attorney General for Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Office said an additional review would "cut across this ongoing legal process".

But Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said: "The decision by the British Secretary of State is further evidence of a British government determined to prevent victims of British state violence from getting to the truth.

"There is effectively an amnesty in place for those British forces who directly killed hundreds of citizens or who through collusion with unionist death squads killed many hundreds more.

"I want to commend the Ballymurphy Massacre families. They have shown remarkable courage and fortitude, under the most difficult of circumstances, to get to the truth of the deaths of their loved ones. I am certain that while they will be deeply disappointed and angry at the Villiers decision they will continue to campaign for a Review Panel and for truth."

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said: "The Secretary of State is utterly wrong in her decision. It is completely in the public interest to have a panel investigation. This can be done in parallel to the ongoing inquest. As the Secretary of State should know, there was an ongoing criminal investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence at the same time as there was an inquiry into his murder. To suggest that a panel could not be convened because of the ongoing inquest is false and does not stand up to scrutiny.

"The timing of the Secretary of State’s letter raises questions about the approach of London to the Ballymurphy massacre in particular and to addressing the past in general. The Secretary of State’s decision is clearly deliberately timed. It comes in the middle of elections. It again confirms that London will resist the truth. It is the consequence of the Secretary of State’s recent statements that, in her opinion, there was too much attention on state wrongs in the past."

(IT)

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