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26 March 2021

Coroner announces date for delivery of Ballymurphy shootings inquest findings

26 March 2021

A coroner has announced a date for the delivery of her findings on a series of fatal shootings involving the Army in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast 50 years ago.

Coroner Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan presided over fresh inquests for 10 people who were shot dead in three days of shooting in Ballymurphy in August 1971.

Mrs Justice Keegan said she will deliver her findings on May 11.

A mother of eight and a Catholic priest were among those killed between August 9 and 11 in what has become known locally as the Ballymurphy Massacre.

Ballymurphy inquest (PA Archive)

The disputed shootings happening during a turbulent period following the controversial introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland – a policy that was met by large-scale disorder.

Violence erupted when the British Army moved into republican strongholds to arrest IRA suspects.

Original inquests in 1972 returned open verdicts. Families of those killed pursued a long campaign for fresh probes to be held.

Northern Ireland’s Attorney General directed new inquests in 2011.

The fresh inquests began in 2018 and ran for 16 months, with the final oral evidence heard last March.

Eye witnesses, forensic experts, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and more than 60 former soldiers – including the former head of the army General Sir Mike Jackson – gave evidence at Belfast Coroner’s Court during the lengthy proceedings.

The families of those killed contend they were innocent, unarmed civilians shot by soldiers without justification.

Barristers for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) argued the soldiers from the Parachute Regiment only ever opened fire when they perceived they were under threat.

Ballymurphy inquest (PA Archive)

The narrative became further clouded in 2018 when the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force claimed their gunmen had also taken part.

John Teggart, whose father Danny Teggart was killed, said the Ballymurphy families had travelled a long and difficult road to secure new inquests.

“I grew up searching for answers of why my daddy was murdered,” he said.

“Families have worked very hard to get to this stage when we will see the results of the many years of campaigning for truth.

“We have confidence that the coroner’s findings will vindicate our loved one’s innocence.”

As well as the 10 who suffered fatal gunshot wounds in the Ballymurphy shootings, another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the troops.

The new inquests only focused on the ten shooting deaths.

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