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Boris Johnson urged to engage directly with Ballymurphy families

·2-min read

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has urged Boris Johnson to engage directly with the families of those killed in Ballymurphy 50 years ago.

A coroner earlier this week found that soldiers shot nine out of the 10, while the circumstances of the 10th death could not be determined.

Mrs Justice Keegan said all 10 were “entirely innocent” and the use of lethal force by the Army was not justified.

Ballymurphy inquest
The families of the victims welcome the coroner’s ruling (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Prime Minister was criticised for a “third-party apology”, after Downing Street said he apologised over the deaths during a phone call with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill on Wednesday.

Ms McDonald said no apology was made during the 10-minute virtual meeting, which had focused on the Covid response.

She said: “There was no apology made, and I think everybody knows that you don’t make an apology by proxy. A second-hand apology really doesn’t amount to any apology at all.”

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On Thursday morning, the Prime Minister sent a personal letter to the solicitor of the families minutes before Secretary of State Brandon Lewis made a public apology in the House of Commons.

Ms McDonald said she believes Mr Johnson should engage directly with the families.

There are mixed views among the families over whether they would want to meet Mr Johnson.

Ballymurphy inquest
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald looks at a plaque in memory of victim John Laverty in Ballymurphy, Belfast (Brian Lawless/PA)

Speaking to the media after meeting the families in west Belfast, Ms McDonald said: “After half a century of denial and lies frankly, after half a century of struggle by these families to get to the truth, to have the truth pronounced loudly for the world, I believe the respectful thing is not to write them a letter through their solicitor or to offer them up a half-baked second-hand apology.

“I believe the dignified thing is to recognise these families, meet with these families and to provide a fulsome public apology that recognises the full calamity that was visited on their family, the full human loss and also the fact of the murderous behaviour of British troops in Ballymurphy and elsewhere in Ireland all those years ago.”

Ms McDonald walked along the Whiterock Road with the families of John Laverty and Joseph Corr to the spot where they were shot on August 11, 1971 and saw plaques in their memory.