A special Northern Irish court has concluded this Tuesday that the 10 civilians who died during the British army operations in 1971 in the nationalist neighborhood of Ballymurphy, in Belfast, were “completely innocent”.
The judge in charge of the process, Siobhan Keegan, has determined that the military were responsible for nine of those deaths and although she has not found a clear relationship with the tenth, she described as “regrettable” that the authorities at the time did not investigate “adequately” this event, one of the most controversial of the conflict in Ulster.
The ruling rules out that the 10 civilians who died, includ ing the Catholic priest Hugh Mullan, shot dead while trying to help a wound, and a mother of eight children, were involved in “paramilitary activities” and declared them “innocent of any illegal action those days. “
In his sentence, Keegan recalled that Northern Ireland was going through a “chaotic situation”, but considered that the use of force carried out by the Army in Ballymurphy between 9 and 11 August 1971 was “disproportionate”.
The conflict had started three years earlier and the London Government applied a policy of internment, without trial, of suspected terrorists, a very unpopular measure among the nationalist-Catholic community.
In this context, several units of the British Army carried out in Ballymurphy, west of Belfast, “Operation Demetrius” with the aim of searching and arresting alleged members of the now inactive Irish Republican Army (IRA).
According to the official version, the military opened fire after being shot by Republicans in this area with a Catholic majority, an explanation that has always been rejected by families, who argue that the soldiers acted following the so-called “shoot to kill” policy. , designed, according to them, by the political and military power.
The special investigation into this event is part of the process launched after the signing of the peace agreement on Good Friday, which ended the conflict in 1998, to deal with his legacy and clarify crimes committed by law enforcement and paramilitary groups.
The Sinn Féin party, a former political arm of the IRA, stated on Tuesday that “the victims and families of the Ballymurphy massacre” have been “vindicated” by “exposing the truth,” which states that “this was a murder of the British state “.
Its president, Mary Lou McDonald, has celebrated the result of the investigation, but has said that it is a “bittersweet” victory, since it coincides with a bill announced this Tuesday by London that plans to grant an amnesty to the military who served in Northern Ireland during the conflict.
The British Government will give more details in the coming weeks, although the Irish Executive and most of the Northern Irish parties had already criticized this unilateral measure, from which the Protestant-Unionist and Nationalist-Catholic paramilitary groups could also benefit.
“The Government will introduce a memory package that offers better results for victims, survivors and veterans, focuses on information retrieval and reconciliation, while ending the cycle of investigations,” London explained in a statement.