LiveBallymurphy killings - Government 'truly sorry' for killings of 10 innocent civilians in west Belfast in 1971

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, has said the government is "truly sorry" for what occurred when 10 innocent civilians were shot dead in west Belfast in August 1971.

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:02 am
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 11:47 am
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis.

For all the latest news and reaction concerning the Secretary of State's statement please scroll down.

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LIVE UPDATES: Ballymurphy killings - Prime Minister Boris Johnson to write to Ballymurphy families and government ‘truly sorry’ says SoS Brandon Lewis

Last updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2021, 11:29

Process for veterans and victims ‘is flawed and needs to be reviewed’ says Conservative MP Alun Cairns

Alun Cairns, MP.

Conservative former minister Alun Cairns said the Ballymurphy verdict shows that the court proceedings process for veterans and victims “is flawed and needs to be reviewed”.

Mr Cairns told MPs: “Now these families have endured an exceptionally long campaign in search for answers. Does (Mr Lewis) agree that this shows that the current system to deal with the legacy of Troubles from all sides in Northern Ireland has failed?

“And that the drawn out, expensive court proceedings for veterans, victims and families is flawed and needs to be reviewed?”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis replied: “The current system, as we have seen tragically in the recent past as well as this week, has simply not been working for anybody.

“It is failing to bring satisfactory and speedy and timely outcomes for families and therefore leaving Northern Ireland with unanswered questions of families within it – and that leaves society hamstrung effectively by its past.

“That is why as a Government we are committed to finding a way forward which will allow individuals and families who want information to be able to seek and receive those answers about what happened during the Troubles with fart less delay and stress. And I think we have a duty to the victims, to the families and to Northern Ireland as a whole to deliver on that.”

Colum Eastwood says Boris Johnson should ‘come out of hiding’ and make public apology

SDLP MP Colum Eastwood called on Boris Johnson to “come out of hiding” and meet the families of the Ballymurphy victims.

Mr Eastwood told the Commons: “Will the Secretary of State ask the Prime Minister to come out of hiding, come with me, meet the Ballymurphy families and tell them to their faces why he wants to protect their killers?”

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis replied: “What I would say to (Mr Eastwood), as I’ve outlined already today, that the Prime Minister is contacting the families directly, as well as his public apology on behalf of the State, and his conversation with the First and Deputy First Minister which I joined him for yesterday.”

He added: “But obviously, we will be considering that report in more detail in the period ahead in order to ensure that we are able to reflect properly on that report.”

Mr Lewis told MPs that “it is right that we take accountability for the actions that were unacceptable”.

‘Where is the Prime Minister today?’ asks Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh followed Brandon Lewis in reading out the names of the Ballymurphy victims, adding: “That families have had to wait for so long to clear their name is a profound failure of justice and one we must learn from.”

Ms Haigh said families were still fighting for answers, telling the Commons: “Burying the truth, refusing to prosecute or investigate crimes has not worked in the 23 years since the signing of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”

The Labour frontbencher highlighted Government pledges to look at all outstanding legacy cases, noting: “Last Wednesday night, victims found out on Twitter that the Government intends to tear up that plan and provide an effective amnesty to those who took lives – and from the statement today, we’re no closer to understanding the Government’s policy to dealing with the legacy of the past.

“The lessons of the past are clear: addressing legacy through an unilateral amnesty from Westminster without the faintest hint of consultation with victims, the support of communities, any political party in Northern Ireland or the Irish government will be impossible to deliver.

“It’d make reconciliation harder and it would not achieve what the Government claims they want – any process that remains open to legal challenge will invite test cases and more veterans back through the courts.”

Ms Haigh also criticised Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “lack” of actions following the Ballymurphy verdict, noting: “In the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, David Cameron came to this House and apologised in a statement – he didn’t brief apologies through disputed calls with politicians, he took full responsibility.

“Where is the Prime Minister today and why has he not publicly apologised to the Ballymurphy families and this House?”

‘Thousands of murders remain unresolved’ says SoS Brandon Lewis

Brandon 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.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson to write to Ballymurphy families and government ‘truly sorry’ says SoS Brandon Lewis

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis has said the Government is “truly sorry” for the events in Ballymurphy 50 years ago in which 10 innocent people were killed.

He told the Commons: “The events of 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 nearly five decades for the judgment this week, nor have been compelled to relive that terrible time in August 1971 again and again in their long, distressing quest for truth.”

He went on: “The vast majority of those who served in Northern Ireland did so with great dignity and professionalism, but it is clear that in some cases, the security forces and the Army made terrible errors too.”

Mr Lewis 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.

“The Government profoundly regrets and is truly sorry for these events, and how investigations after these terrible events were handled, and the additional pain that the families have had to endure in their fight to clear the names of their loved ones since they began their campaign almost five decades ago.”

Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to make statement in House of Commons this morning

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, will make a statement in the House of Commons on Thursday morning on the killing of 10 innocent civilians by the army in west Belfast in 1971.

Earlier this week a coroner Mrs Justice Keegan found that the 10 people shot dead by paratroopers were “entirely innocent”.

Pressure has been put on both Secretary of State Brandon Lewis and Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to make a direct apology to the families of those who were killed.

Boris Johnson spoke with First Minister, Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, on Wednesday during which he is said to have apologised.

Mr. Johnson’s apology was immediately labelled an “insult to the families” by many relatives of the 10 people who lost their lives between August 9 - 11, 1971.

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