Prime Minister makes formal Commons apology over Ballymurphy

Undated Ballymurphy Massacre Committee handout file photos of the victims (Ballymurphy Massacre Committee/PA) (PA Media)
13:41pm, Wed 19 May 2021
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Boris Johnson has made a formal House of Commons apology to the families of the Ballymurphy victims.

Opening Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson read out the names of the victims killed in west Belfast 50 years ago in shootings involving British soldiers.

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.”

The apology comes after a coroner found the 10 people who died in August 1971 were “entirely innocent”.

The Army was found to be responsible for nine of the 10 deaths, which included a mother-of-eight and a Catholic priest.

Addressing the Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson acknowledged the pain of the victims’ families.

“No apology can lessen the lasting pain,” he said.

“I hope they may take some comfort in the answers they have secured and in knowing that this has renewed the Government’s determination to ensure in future that other families can find answers with less distress and delay.”

Mr Johnson’s handling of the Government’s apology for the Ballymurphy killings had previously been heavily criticised by families who lost loved ones.

The first news of the Prime Minister having apologised emerged in a Downing Street read-out of a phone call he had with Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill the day after last week’s inquest ruling.

Bereaved relatives dismissed this as a “third-hand” apology and their anger intensified when questions were raised over whether or not Mr Johnson had actually said sorry on the call with Mrs Foster and Ms O’Neill.

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.

This again drew an angry response from the relatives, who claimed the Prime Minister should be making a public statement in Parliament on the shootings.

They also criticised him for referring to the killings as “events” rather than a “massacre”.

In a separate Government statement the following day, related to a meeting Mr Johnson had with Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Downing Street did refer to the shootings as a massacre.

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