The pronouncement of 10 people killed in west Belfast in 1971 as innocent has been welcomed by Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister.
The British Army was found responsible for nine of the deaths of 10 people in Ballymurphy in August 1971, including a mother-of-eight and a Catholic priest following fresh inquests.
Presiding Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan acknowledged it was a chaotic time but ruled that the use of force by soldiers had been “disproportionate” in the deaths the Army was found to have been responsible for.
She ruled out any paramilitary involvement by any of those killed, and described them as “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing on the day in question”.
Reacting to the findings, Michelle O’Neill claimed it was “British state murder”.
She tweeted: “The victims and the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre have been vindicated and the truth laid bare. This was British state murder.”
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the findings have “cast a tremendous new light on one of the darkest pages of the history of the conflict”.
He said the findings will come as an “immense relief and vindication for the families who have maintained for decades that their loved ones were innocent and their killings unjustified”.
Alliance leader Naomi Long paid tribute to the families following their long campaign to clear their loved ones’ names.
“The Ballymurphy families have had battle too hard and too long to finally hear that truth at today’s inquest ruling into their loved ones’ deaths,” she tweeted.
“They have carried themselves with courage and fortitude throughout the last 50 years. This is vindication of their fight.”
Irish premier Micheal Martin told the Dail: “Our first thoughts today are with the families of those killed following that terrible violence and atrocities in Ballymurphy on those three terrible days in August 1971.
“I do recall visiting the site at the time and meeting with the relatives. I was never in any doubt that these innocent citizens were killed without any justification and that they were entirely innocent. The inquest has found that.”
He added: “It’s been a very harrowing experience for many, many relatives. There have been many false dawns in terms of trying to get closure or trying to get justice in relation to this.”
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the finding would come as an “immense relief” for families.
He said: “While we will need to examine the full detail of the coroner’s statement, the principal findings have cast a tremendous new light on one of the darkest pages of the history of the conflict, and will come as an immense relief and vindication for the families who have maintained for decades that their loved ones were innocent and their killings unjustified.
“Today’s historic developments wouldn’t have been possible without the determined campaign by the families of those killed in Ballymurphy for the truth of what took place in those terrible days in August 1971.
“I have met with the families during the course of their campaign and I want to acknowledge and pay tribute to that extraordinary achievement. All of them are in our thoughts today.”