Relatives of 10 people shot dead by paratroops in west Belfast in 1971 have welcomed the decision to hold new inquests into their deaths.

The families said the decision by Attorney General John Larkin was an important step in their ongoing campaign for justice.
The Army said it opened fire in the Ballymurphy area in response to gunfire from republican paramilitaries.
The families have long called for an independent inquiry into the killings.

The victims, which included a priest and a mother-of-eight, were killed over the course of three days in August 1971 by members of the Parachute Regiment during Operation Demetrius, when people suspected of paramilitary activity were interned.

The Northern Ireland Office has ruled out any public inquiry into the killings akin to the Bloody Sunday Tribunal.

In a statement the families of the victims said:
“We commend the attorney general for showing leadership and credibility in announcing that the inquests will be re-opened.

“We feel that when he considered the facts surrounding the sham inquests which took place 40 years ago, his decision was the correct one.

The 10 people shot dead

Fr Hugh Mullan
Francis Quinn
Daniel Teggart
Joan Connolly
Joseph Murphy
Noel Phillips
Edward Doherty
John Laverty
Joseph Corr
John McKerr

“We regard the original sham inquests as a serious neglect of duty by everyone involved and leave a lot of questions to be answered.”

The statement added that the new inquests would be an “important step on our journey for truth”.

“But even a fully resourced and effective inquest will have limitations,” the families said.

“We believe that only an International and Independent Investigation can facilitate the discovery of the facts and provide an accurate historical account of the events of August 1971 on the streets of Ballymurphy.”

‘Fully cooperate’

The Ministry of Defence said it was “aware that the attorney general has re-opened inquests into a number of deaths which occurred in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in 1971.

“The Ministry of Defence will cooperate fully with the Coroner’s court,” it added.

SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood said Mr Larkin’s decision underlined the need for a full international inquiry into the atrocity.

“The decision by the attorney general on the Ballymurphy massacre is a step in the right direction. This decision vindicates the campaign of the families for truth and justice,” he said.

“This development, however, serves to confirm that it is a public, international inquiry that is needed to give the families the means to truth that their campaign demands.”

The MP for West Belfast, Sinn Fein’s Paul Maskey, also said a full inquiry was needed.

“This is a welcome announcement by the attorney general and moves the campaign for justice for the Ballymurphy Victims a step closer,” Mr Maskey said.

“But while this is an advance in the campaign it should not be seen as fulfilling the demands of the families to a full independent international inquiry.”