UK apologizes for 1971 Belfast deaths; families want more

Ballymurphy: 10 people shot dead were innocent, inquest finds

Ballymurphy: 10 people shot dead were innocent, inquest finds

Downing Street said the British Prime Minister made the apology in a call with Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill this evening.

He said there was "no doubt what happened on those terrible few days in Ballymurphy fuelled further violence and escalation, particularly in the early years of the Troubles".

British soldiers unjustifiably shot or used disproportionate force in the deaths of nine of the 10 innocent people killed in a 1971 incident in Belfast that sparked an upsurge of violence during Northern Ireland's "Troubles", a judge-led inquiry found.

"All of the deceased in the series of inquests were entirely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question", the coroner said, dismissing claims by soldiers that some of the victims had been armed and shooting.

Brandon Lewis says this also extended to the families for the "additional pain" they have had to endure and how the investigations were handled.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday "apologised unreservedly on behalf of the UK Government for the events that took place in Ballymurphy" and the "huge anguish" caused to the families of those killed.

Families of some of the victims rejected it as a "third party apology" from the Prime Minister.

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"The secretary of state says that the British army made bad errors in Northern Ireland", SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told Lewis from across the Commons chamber. "It actually ruined the moment of what we have campaigned for all these years".

Lewis said soldiers at times had "made awful errors", but the government wanted people seeking the truth about killings to gain this information "with far less delay and distress" than criminal prosecutions would afford.

"Above all, they should not have had to wait almost five decades for the judgement this week, nor have been compelled to relive that awful time in August 1971, again and again in their long and distressing quest for truth".

The Downing Street statement on Wednesday said the prime minister "apologised unreservedly on behalf of the United Kingdom government for the events that took place in Ballymurphy and the huge anguish that the lengthy pursuit of truth has caused the families of those killed". That infuriated relatives of the Ballymurphy dead, many of whom want soldiers who fired the fatal shots to be prosecuted and their commanders - among them the army's former top figure, General Michael Jackson - to be stripped of honors.

Mrs Justice Keegan also found the tenth victim, John McKerr, to be an "entirely innocent man"; however, she said it was impossible to say where the shot that killed him came from or who fired it.

The killings came over three days from 9-11 August 1971 following the controversial introduction of internment without trial.

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