UK rejects calls for Hillsborough-type review of Ballymurphy massacre

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.

The British Government has rejected a call for an independent re-examination of a British Army operation that left 11 people dead in west Belfast more than 40 years ago.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had been asked to establish a review panel to assess the evidence related to an episode in 1971 that bereaved relatives refer to as the Ballymurphy massacre.

But Ms Villiers today informed the families that the Government had decided not to set up a review, claiming it would not serve the public interest.

Ten people died after being shot by soldiers, among them a Catholic priest and a mother of eight, over three days of gunfire in August 1971 while another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the troops.

As with Bloody Sunday in Derry six months later, members of the Parachute Regiment were involved in the fatal operation in Ballymurphy.

A new inquest into the 10 deaths caused by gunfire was ordered by Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin QC in 2011.

The families have also long campaigned for a review panel to be set up by the British Government. They want the probe modelled on the one that re-examined the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

They wanted the panel to be chaired by former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan.

The shootings took place as the British Army moved into republican strongholds in west Belfast to arrest IRA suspects in the wake of the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldiers claimed they had come under attack and had returned fire.

But relatives have demanded an acknowledgement that their loved ones were wrongfully killed.

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