Statement by the Ballymurphy Massacre Families – Inquests Re-opened
The Ballymurphy Massacre families welcome the decision by the Attorney-General to re-open 10 inquests relating to the death of our loved ones 40 years ago. We commend the Attorney-General for showing leadership and credibility in announcing that the inquests will be re-opened.
We feel that when he considered the facts surrounding the sham inquests which took place 40 years ago, his decision was the correct one. We regard the original sham inquests as a serious neglect of duty by everyone involved and leave a lot of questions to be answered.
A question that should be answered is why did the Coroner not compel the soldier’s to give evidence in person to the Coroner’s Court? In 1971 an agreement was reached between the GOC of the British Army and the Chief Constable of the RUC, whereby the interviewing of soldiers involved in murdering our loved ones was carried out by the Royal Military Police, another branch of the army ‘family tree’. How could any investigation have credibility when the people in the dock are investigating themselves?
The soldiers involved were helped to fabricate their accounts of what happened. There was no attempt to contrast these accounts with the evidence of numerous eye witnesses, particularly in relation to their justification for firing live rounds. The soldiers’ statements were simply accepted without question. Key civilian evidence and inconsistencies between the soldier’s accounts were withheld from the Coroner.
The lack of pre-inquest disclosure to the families or our legal representatives and the inability of the Coroner’s court to reach ‘findings’ is another indication of serious flaws with the original inquests.
All of these shortcomings mean that the original inquests into the deaths were so flawed that they could be regarded at best as a sham and at worst as a shameful cover-up!
There are a number of changes to the Coroner’s court in recent years which influenced the family’s decision to apply to the Attorney-General to re-open the inquests and provide the family with hope that the inquests will reach credible findings. These changes include the fact that:
· the inquests will have to comply with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR);
· the British soldiers involved in the killings can now be compelled to give evidence in person;
· the House of Lords has made it clear that the Coroner dealing with an inquest has a generous discretion in relation to the remit of an Inquest; and
· a jury will now be in a position to reach ‘findings’;
The families believe that that these inquests must be held without delay, with sufficient resources and funding provided to the Coroner and the families legal representatives to ensure that all of the facts are known.
The inquests will be re-opened into the deaths of Fr Hugh Mullan, Francis Quinn, Daniel Teggart, Joan Connolly, Joseph Murphy, Noel Phillips, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr and John McKerr. We are extremely disappointed that the death of Pat McCarthy will not be covered by these inquests. The death of Pat McCarthy was not investigated by the Coroner in 1971 because in all of the confusion and misinformation surrounding the Massacre, his death was recorded as a heart attack. However, we now know that Pat’s heart attack occurred as he was subjected to a cruel and terrifying mock execution, and what’s more, he was denied access to medical help which could have saved his life. We will continue to gather evidence and locate and record witness evidence to assist a further application to the Attorney-General in relation to the death of Mr McCarthy. We will continue in our quest to have the truth about Pat’s death to be a matter of historical record.
The families regard the re-opening of the inquests as a very important step on our journey for truth. But even a fully resourced and effective inquest will have limitations. It will be able to provide facts and gather crucial forensic, logistical and witness testimony evidence, but it will not be able to examines the causes, context and consequences of the Massacre and answer so many of the questions that must be answered.
We believe that only an International and Independent Investigation can facilitate the discovery of the facts and provide an accurate historical account of the events of August 1971 on the streets of Ballymurphy.