Bishop backs investigation into Ballymurphy massacre

Government and society must have the guts to confront past wrongs in the North if the region is to look to a better future, a senior Catholic Church leader said today.

Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor stressed the need for lingering sores from the Troubles to be salved as he publicly backed a campaign for an inquiry into the British Army killings of 11 people in west Belfast almost 40 years ago.

Young Catholic priest Hugh Mullan was among those shot dead by soldiers in the so-called Ballymurphy massacre in August 1971.

Dr Treanor met and prayed with bereaved relatives this afternoon at the scene of the shootings before presenting them with a previously undisclosed report compiled by the Church at the time of the killings.

"It is important in an integrated way as we build a shared future in this society that we courageously and openly have the guts to address the entire ballast of the past, the weight of the past, so we may go forward in a healthy way to construct a shared future," he said.

The shootings took place over a three-day period after the Army entered the republican Ballymurphy area to round up suspected paramilitaries after the North's government introduced the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Relatives' calls for an internationally chaired independent investigation have intensified since the publication in June of the Saville report into the British Army killings of 14 people on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972.

Some of the soldiers who were involved in that notorious incident in Derry had been in Ballymurphy six months earlier.

Dr Treanor said he is backing the relatives' demand for a new investigation into the events and an acknowledgement and apology from the British government.

The bill for the 12-year long Bloody Sunday inquiry was almost £200m (€240.5m) and the bishop stressed that the cost of any similar probe into the Ballymurphy incidents had to be kept under control.

"Inquiries as we have known can cost a lot of money," he said.

"We are in a period of recession - investing money in society, in the future, in employment is very important - but nonetheless it is equally important that the truth of the past be established."

John Teggart, whose father Danny was one of those killed, welcomed the bishop's support.

"It's a big step for our campaign and it's welcome to have the Catholic Church as part of our campaign," he said.

"The Catholic Church are the same as the other 10 families - they are looking for what happened to Father Mullan, they are seeking the truth just like us and it's all part of the one campaign."

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