The Catholic Church today backed calls for an independent inquiry into the British Army killings of 11 people in west Belfast almost 40 years ago.
The Bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, will urge the British Government to apologise and declare innocent those shot dead in the so-called Ballymurphy massacre when he meets bereaved families tomorrow.
He will also hand the relatives previously undisclosed church archive documents relating to the deaths in August 1971.
Catholic priest Hugh Mullan was among the 11 civilians shot dead by British soldiers over a three-day period in the republican neighbourhood.
The military entered the area to round up suspected paramilitaries after the Northern Ireland government introduced the controversial policy of internment without trial.
The relatives’ calls for an internationally chaired independent inquiry 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.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said Bishop Treanor would take a tour of the area where the shootings took place before handing over the archive files to the relatives.
“The bishop will be voicing his support for the families’ request to have an inquiry,” he added.
The documents include the church’s report into what happened, based on eyewitness accounts. A number of British military personnel are among those interviewed.
The authors of the report said the killings were not justified.
“We are convinced that the British army units involved, whether through fear or vindictiveness, unnecessarily fired a large number of rounds into the waste grounds across which innocent men, women and children were fleeing ... certainly the fatalities did not occur in a cross-fire,” it stated.
The church is to conduct further searches of its archives in an attempt to find other material related to the Ballymurphy killings.