Boris Johnson urged to travel to North and meet Ballymurphy families

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Boris Johnson Urged To Travel To North And Meet Ballymurphy Families
Ballymurphy inquest, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Richard Wheeler, PA Parliamentary Editor

British prime minister Boris Johnson should travel to meet the families of the Ballymurphy victims, a former Northern Ireland secretary has urged.

Labour’s Paul Murphy said all UK governments, including the Tony Blair administration in which he served, have “let these families down” over the last 50 years.

But he went on to criticise Mr Johnson's response to the coroner’s ruling that 10 people who died in Belfast in August 1971 were “entirely innocent”.

He should travel to Northern Ireland to meet with the families personally. After 50 years, they deserve no less

Last week Mrs Justice Keegan found that nine of the 10 had been killed by soldiers and that the use of lethal force was not justified.

The Ballymurphy families angrily rejected a letter of apology from Mr Johnson expressing his personal sorrow for the “terrible hurt that has been caused” by the deaths.

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Responding in the upper House to a statement from the UK government, Mr Murphy said: “I fully appreciate that the government has apologised for this tragic event, but frankly they should go further.

“The prime minister should have delivered a statement himself in the chamber of the House of Commons, like his predecessor David Cameron on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

“Now he should travel to Northern Ireland to meet with the families personally. After 50 years, they deserve no less.”

'Graceless and inadequate'

Liberal Democrat Malcolm Bruce added: “The prime minister’s apology appears somewhat graceless and inadequate.

“Sending a stereotyped collective letter rather than making a public statement and apology in Parliament falls far short of the sensitivity and compassion required following such a clear and stark verdict.”

 

For the UK government, Conservative whip James Younger said: “The government’s apology to the Ballymurphy families cannot change what they have endured.

“The PM, on behalf of the UK government, the state, has apologised by writing to the families. He has also spoken to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

“(Northern Ireland Secretary) Brandon Lewis, in the Commons, has also apologised in his statement last Thursday, and today I add my own heartfelt apology.”

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Ulster Unionist Party peer Reg Empey asked the UK government to provide resources to the “existing, established and acceptable security forces” to investigate any fresh evidence rather than spend “hundreds of millions of pounds on setting up new organisations that will take up to 15 years to complete their casework”.

DUP peer Nigel Dodds asked for assurances that the families of “forgotten” victims will receive recognition or an apology “from the political spokespersons of the terrorist groups – some of whom are in government today in Northern Ireland”, adding: “Indeed can they expect justice as a result of the forthcoming proposals on legacy?”

Margaret Ritchie, a non-affiliated peer and former SDLP MP, asked the government whip: “Will he also ensure that the proposed legacy legislation reflects the Stormont House Agreement and ensures that there will be no amnesty for those who committed acts of murder, irrespective of whether they were military or paramilitary, in our society.”

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