Son of Ballymurphy victim rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘third party apology’

Son of Ballymurphy victim rejects Boris Johnson’s ‘third party apology’

John Teggart, standing in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

The son of an innocent man killed by soldiers in Ballymurphy 50 years ago has rejected a “third party apology” from the UK Prime Minister.

John Teggart queried why Boris Johnson did not make a public apology.

A Downing Street spokesman said that in a conversation with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, Mr Johnson “apologised unreservedly on behalf of the UK Government”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Jessica Taylor/PA)

On Tuesday, Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan found that 10 people killed in Ballymurphy in August 1971 were “entirely innocent”.

She found that nine of the 10 had been killed by soldiers, and found that the use of lethal force was not justified.

Fresh inquests into the deaths involving the Army in Ballymurphy in August 1971 concluded that the victims were “entirely innocent” and soldiers were responsible for nine of the fatal shootings.

Mrs Justice Keegan also criticised the lack of investigation into the 10th death, that of John McKerr, and said she could not definitively rule who had shot him.

The Downing Street spokesman said the Prime Minister said the conclusions of the Ballymurphy Inquest were “deeply sad and that the events of August 1971 were tragic”.

“The Prime Minister apologised unreservedly on behalf of the UK Government for the events that took place in Ballymurphy and the huge anguish that the lengthy pursuit of truth has caused the families of those killed.”

Mr Teggart said it is an “insult to the families” that Mr Johnson’s apology came in a conversation with others.

“The apology was to third parties, it wasn’t to the Ballymurphy families,” he told the BBC.

“It’s not a public apology … what kind of insult is it to families that he couldn’t have the conversation with ourselves. His office couldn’t come and speak to the families of what he was doing.

“That’s not acceptable to the families and never will be. This is not an apology to us.”

Briege Voyle with a picture of her mother Joan Connelly, who was killed in Ballymurphy (Niall Carson/PA)

Breige Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was killed in Ballymurphy, dismissed Mr Johnson’s apology.

“Why are we only hearing about this now,” she said.

“Is he trying to sneak it in. I don’t care about an apology, I want to know why, our loved ones were all completely innocent so why were they shot.

“His apology means nothing, we need him to go back to the MoD and tell them to tell the truth, tell our legal team the names of the soldiers who murdered our loved ones and ask them why.”

She said an apology by Mr Johnson in the House of Commons would have “at least been a bit more respectful… as if he is holding us in a wee bit of respect but to do it this way is trying to push it under the carpet”.

Earlier, Ms O’Neill said the UK Government must apologise “as a bare minimum” to the families of the civilians killed in west Belfast in 1971 in shootings involving the Army.

She said Tuesday had been “a day for truth for the Ballymurphy families… but not a day of justice, and that’s what the families now need to see”.

She added: “That’s for everybody – all families are entitled to truth, all families are entitled to justice, all families are entitled to know what happened to their loved ones.

“The British Government had been exposed yesterday for covering up for 50 years the fact that they killed Irish citizens on our streets.

“The British Government need to now respond.

“There are calls for an apology and I would obviously support that as a bare minimum.

“But what these families now deserve is access to justice.”

Speaking alongside Ms O’Neill at a joint appearance at Clandeboye Golf Club in Bangor, Co Down, Mrs Foster recognised the Ballymurphy families’ fight for 50 years to clear their names, adding there are many others who are continuing to fight for justice.

Mrs Foster emphasised that in terms of legacy in Northern Ireland, there should be a “process where everybody can feel included”.

“The worst thing we could do is that some people are able to get truth around what happened to their loved ones and others are denied that truth and justice so I think we have to be very careful around that.

“I want to see a process that includes everybody,” she said.

“There are many empty chairs right across Northern Ireland as a result of terrorism and I think those people deserve justice and truth just as the Ballymurphy families did.”

Victims Joseph Corr, Danny Taggart, Eddie Doherty, Father Hugh Mullan, Frank Quinn,  Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Phillips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy (Ballymurphy Massacre Committee/PA)

A solicitor who represents the Ballymurphy families said they have instigated civil proceedings against the Ministry of Defence.

“In light of these findings and the strong criticisms, they will be pushing on with that,” Padraig O Muirigh said.

The shootings in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast came over three days from August 9-11 following the controversial introduction of internment without trial.

Soldiers were met with violence across Northern Ireland as they detained IRA suspects.

Mrs Justice Keegan acknowledged in her lengthy rulings that the killings took place in a “highly charged and difficult environment”.

However, the presiding coroner said it was “very clear” that “all of the deceased in the series of inquests were entirely innocent of any wrongdoing on the day in question”.

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