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Ballymurphy inquest enters final week

THE final week of the inquest into the deaths of 10 people shot dead in West Belfast nearly 50 years ago started today with the victims’ relatives hoping for closure after a lengthy campaign for justice.

They have conducted themselves with dignity through seven months of harrowing testimony as they heard the accounts of how their loved ones died at the hands of British troops in the Ballymurphy area in August 1971.

Some of them have faced vile abuse from supporters of the British armed forces and loyalist paramilitaries.  And they have heard British Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley claim that historical killings by British soldiers in the occupied six counties “were not crimes,” prompting calls for her resignation.

The inquest is examining the deaths of 10 people shot dead during a three-day killing spree after the introduction of internment without trial, seen as targeting Belfast’s Catholic minority.

Today statements from soldiers who are no longer alive were read out in the Belfast court. One soldier’s statement reported that he unloaded 50 bullets, which led one relative to say it proved that the Paratroop Regiment was “completely out of control.”

Another soldier, known as M597 previously said: “It was sheer bravado: rogue soldiers were out of control, killing people in the street and knowing they would be protected.”

The families have insisted they want the truth to be known about those killed, many of whom have been smeared as IRA terrorists who were armed.

Last week the Ballymurphy Massacre families were presented with the Spirit of Feile award at the launch of this year’s Feile programme in Conway Mill.

Briege Voyle, the daughter of victim Joan Connolly, said the award was “a great acknowledgement of the strength, determination and spirit of our families to get truth and justice for our loved ones.”

She explained that “many people have congratulated us for our dignity, resilience and courage in taking on the British Establishment and holding them to account.

“We have refused to have anything other than an acknowledgement of truth, accountability and justice for what happened to our loved ones. Truth has always been the objective of our campaign, although it seems the British state is daunted by it.

“We owe it to the 11 people who were murdered on our streets 48 years ago.

“They were innocent people who had their lives taken and their reputation tarnished.

“It has been a long hard journey,” she said.

The inquest concludes on Thursday.

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