Politics

Government 'Truly Sorry' For Events Of Ballymurphy

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said the Prime Minister is writing personally to the families of the victims.

The Government is "truly sorry" for the events in Ballymurphy 50 years ago, in which 10 innocent people were killed, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, has said.

On Tuesday, coroner Mrs Justice Keegan found that those who died in Belfast in August 1971 were "entirely innocent".

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

In a statement to the House of Commons on Thursday, Mr Lewis began by acknowledging the "terrible hurt" which had been caused to the families.

He said: "The Prime Minister is writing personally to the families and expressed his deep regret to the First and Deputy First Ministers of Northern Ireland yesterday, and has apologised unreservedly on behalf of the state.

"The findings of the coroner are clear, those who died were entirely innocent of wrongdoing.

"The events at Ballymurphy should never have happened.

"The families of those who were killed should never have had to experience the grief and trauma of that loss.

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

He added: "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.

Watch: Families react to the coroner's Ballymurphy findings this week.

"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."

On Wednesday, Boris Johnson apologised "unreservedly" for the events of Ballymurphy, an apology rejected by families of the victims.

Mr Lewis said "thousands of murders remain unresolved" in Northern Ireland, with many families yearning for answers.

He told MPs: "With each passing year the integrity of evidence and the prospect of prosecution do diminish, and the Government is not shrinking away from those challenges.

"We are determined to address them in a way that reflects the time that has passed, the complexity of Northern Ireland's troubled history and the reality of compromises that have already been made.

"But above all, we're determined to address it in a way that enables victims and survivors to get to the truth which they deserve.

"We must never ignore or dismiss the past, learning what we can we must find a way to move beyond it – and the coroner's findings this week are part of that very often painful process.

"This Government wants to deliver a way forward in addressing the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland, one that will allow all individuals of families who want information to seek and receive answers about what happened during the Troubles with far less delay and distress.

"We want a path forward which will also pave the way for wider societal reconciliation for all communities, allowing all the people of Northern Ireland to focus on building a shared, stable, peaceful and prosperous future."