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Fury over Johnson's ‘unacceptable’ half-apology

Families of the innocents killed in the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre slam PM's ‘botched’ letter

ANGERED Ballymurphy families hit out at Boris Johnson today following the PM’s “botched” apology for the killings of 10 innocent civilians.

The families were left fuming after receiving a letter from Mr Johnson that downplayed the killings 50 years ago as “events.”

Coroner Ms Justice Keegan found on Tuesday that those who died in Belfast on August 1971 were “entirely innocent.”

She found that nine of the 10 had been killed by soldiers — and that their use of lethal force was not justified.

In his letter, the Prime Minister said: “I unequivocally accept the findings of the coroner.

“Those who died over that terrible period were innocent of any wrongdoing.

“The events at Ballymurphy should never have happened.”

He continued: “The duty of the state is to hold itself to the highest standard and that requires us to recognise the hurt and agony caused when we fall short of those standards.

“For what happened on those terrible few days in Ballymurphy, and for what the families have gone through since you began your brave and dignified campaign almost five decades ago, I am truly sorry.

“I recognise that no words of apology can make up for the lasting pain that you have endured.

“Thank you for the dignity and strength you have shown.”

However, the Ballymurphy families, who had gathered for a press conference in Belfast, were left angered by the timing and content of the letter.

Their solicitor, Padraig O Muirigh, broke down as he read out Mr Johnson’s letter, saying he had been left upset by the “disgraceful conduct” of the PM.

The families were also angered by Mr Johnson’s use of the word “events” to describe the Ballymurphy deaths.

John Teggart, whose father was killed by a soldier at Ballymurphy, said the main emotion from the families was anger.

He said: “There is no mention of a massacre, there is no mention of the paras.

“If this was to be done right he would have sat back, took his time, consulted with the families before he put that out. The manner in which he has done it is totally unacceptable to the families.”

The families held a meeting with Sinn Fein President Mary-Lou McDonald. 

Speaking after that meeting Ms McDonald said the families had “articulated their very great anger with the botched way in which the British Prime Minister has approached the issue of an apology.

“An apology which is, frankly, the least that these families are entitled to, an apology that recognises the full truth and horror of what happened here in Ballymurphy over three days 50 years ago in 1971.

“These families are heroic, nothing short of that.

“They have shown a dignity, courage, resilience and stamina which is unmatched and I think Boris Johnson could do well to borrow from these families some of that dignity, some of that sense of purpose and he certainly needs to recognise what happened here.”

She added: “They have their truth now and I know that they are intent on receiving justice.”

In his statement in the Commons, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “There is no doubt that what happened on those awful few days in Ballymurphy also fuelled further violence and escalation, particularly in the early years of the Troubles.

“The government profoundly regrets and is truly sorry for these events and how investigations after these terrible events were handled and for the additional pain that the families have had to endure in their fight to clear the names of their loved ones.”

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