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Taoiseach holds 'constructive' meeting with Boris Johnson on Ballymurphy massacre and other issues

The pair discussed Covid-19, Brexit and British-Irish relations at Chequers today.

Image: PA Images

Updated May 14th 2021, 6:08 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he had a tête-à-tête with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the issue of the Ballymurphy massacre, and that he expects Johnson “to respond in his own way in his own time” on the matter. 

Speaking to RTÉ News, the Taoiseach said that the prime minister is “very well aware” of the issues around this matter following their meeting earlier.

The two counterparts met today at the prime minister’s country house Chequers, discussing post-Brexit trade, Covid-19 and a number of other matters. 

In a statement from the Irish government, it said that the Taoiseach had “constructive engagement” with the prime minister this afternoon. 

It came amid anger from the families of the Ballymurphy victims on the manner of the apology given by the British government over the events in 1971.

A Downing Street claim that the Prime Minister apologised on behalf of the state in a phone call with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill was dismissed by the families as a “third-party apology”.

Speaking to reporers this evening, the Taoiseach said that he believes Johnson “does understand” the situation and has been “fully appraised” of the matter.

Relatives of those killed at Ballymurphy have criticised a letter of apology Boris Johnson sent to them for failing to describe the shootings at Ballymurphy in 1971 as a “massacre”.

The Downing Street statement about today’s meeting with the Taoiseach did use that term in relation to the killings.

The statement said: “The leaders reflected on the Coroner’s report into the Ballymurphy massacre published this week. They agreed it was profoundly sad that the families of victims had to wait so long for the truth.

“The Prime Minister restated the UK Government’s commitment to finding a way forward in Northern Ireland that delivers for victims, aids truth recovery and helps communities in the future.

“They agreed on the importance of working together to uphold the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and to maintain smooth trade between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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“The leaders resolved to continue to work together in our fight against coronavirus and to closely share information in order to enable a better recovery.”

In a separate statement, the Irish government said: “The Taoiseach and Prime Minister had constructive engagement across a number of issues, including the Covid-19 response, support for peace and stability in Northern Ireland, and the broader British-Irish relationship.

Discussions focused on ways the two Governments can continue to work together to support all the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and promote peace and prosperity on both a North/South and East/West basis.
The two leaders, in particular, discussed the long journey of the Ballymurphy families for justice to vindicate the innocence of their loved ones.

“They also discussed British-Irish relations, and both are ambitious for the development of the next phase of the bilateral relationship framed around a number of areas of common interest.

“The Taoiseach and Prime Minister had a good exchange on the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the value of working together.  They agreed to remain in close touch over the coming weeks. 

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