Ballymurphy: ‘Closure needed for ALL innocent victims’ as PM says sorry

As Boris Johnson formally apologised in Parliament to the families of the Ballymurphy victims, a Northern Irish cleric has voiced sadness that he never expects any such closure for the murders of his own family members.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 20th May 2021, 4:01 pm
Boris Johnson apologising to the Ballymurphy families, 19-05-21

Church of Ireland minister Alan Irwin was doubly bereaved by separate IRA shootings which remain unsolved, and whilst the relatives of the Ballymurphy bloodbath now have a measure of justice, “the rest of us won’t get that”.

It all comes in the wake of a coroners’ court ruling this month that all 10 of those shot dead by the Parachute Regiment in west Belfast in August 1971 (including a Catholic priest) were unjustly killed.

Opening Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, the Prime Minister Mr Johnson read out the names of the victims killed in west Belfast 50 years ago by the Parachute Regiment.

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The Prime Minister added to MPs: “On behalf of successive governments, and to put on the record in this House, I’d like to say sorry to their families for how the investigations were handled, for the pain they’ve endured since their campaign began almost five decades ago.”

Mr Johnson had previously faced criticism for only apologising for the bloodbath in a private telephone call with Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill.

Bereaved relatives dismissed this as a “third-hand” apology – and some questioned whether Mr Johnson had actually said sorry on the call.

Statements issued by both parties in the wake of the call made no reference to an apology.

The following day Mr Johnson sent a letter to the Ballymurphy families to apologise to them in writing.

Rev Irwin, who ministers in Lack, Co Fermanagh, said: “As a family, we’re not going to get anything like that. That’s the horrible thing about it.

“The Ballymurphy ones got their justice because they were obliged to an Article 2-compliant investigation. Well, the rest of us won’t get that. That’s the annoying thing about it.”

This is a reference to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, stating that the state is responsible for protecting life, which has been used in recent times to trigger fresh probes into old cases.

Rev Irwin’s uncle Fred (a council waste worker and part-time UDR soldier) was killed by the IRA in 1979, then his father Thomas (a sewage plant worker and also a part-time UDR volunteer) was killed in 1986 by the group.

They were just two of the IRA’s well-over 1,700 victims throughout the Troubles.

According to Ulster University’s CAIN archive, republicans killed over 2,050 people betyween 1969 and 2001, loyalists killed about 1,030, and the army and police killed 365 (the UDR specifically killed eight people).

His message to the Province’s paramilitary movements and their followers is this: “They have to acknowledge what they did was wrong, and to start now giving the truth to the many innocents they have murdered, and the many families they have destroyed.

“All paramilitaries – terrorists are terrorists.

“Republicans seem to be the ones who do the more glorification.

“But the message is clear – all paramilitaries [must be] more open and transparent with the truth.”

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Alistair Bushe