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Johnson accused of 'not caring' about people in Northern Ireland in wake of Ballymurphy apology controversy

The families of innocent victims and MPs have criticised Boris Johnson for not making a public apology for the massacre.

Briege Voyle, daughter of Joan Connolly.
Briege Voyle, daughter of Joan Connolly.
Image: PA Images

Updated May 13th 2021, 2:20 PM

THE FAMILIES OF the Ballymurphy massacre victims have reacted angrily and said that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson “does not care” about the people of Northern Ireland, after an apology on behalf of the British Government was given in the House of Commons today.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs this morning that the British Government is “truly sorry” for the events in Ballymurphy 50 years ago, in which 10 innocent people were killed by the British Army.

“We must never ignore or dismiss the past, learning what we can we must find a way to move beyond it – and the coroner’s findings this week are part of that very often painful process,” Lewis told the House of Commons.

“This Government wants to deliver a way forward in addressing the legacy of the past in Northern Ireland, one that will allow all individuals of families who want information to seek and receive answers about what happened during the Troubles with far less delay and distress.”

Brandon Lewis Brandon Lewis. Source: Parliament TV

But the families of those who were killed have rejected the apology as not good enough.

Briege Voyle, whose mother Joan Connolly was shot dead by a soldier, said: “Only for the press keeping us informed about what was going on, that was how I found out there was to be an apology.

“I would only like to meet Boris Johnson when he is coming to tell me why a soldier murdered my mummy, and altogether 10 innocent people. Then I will genuinely sit down with Boris Johnson and I will listen to what he has to say.”

In response to Lewis calling the Ballymurphy deaths “terrible errors”, Voyle said:

They were not terrible errors, they were given the green light, just shoot anything you see. We need an investigation and the police need to do the job they should have done in 1971.

Asked how she would feel now about an apology coming directly from the Prime Minister, Voyle said: “Now, I wouldn’t think too much of it because realistically he is only being told what to say, he doesn’t care about the people in the north of Ireland, we are just numbers.”

No public apology from the Prime Minister

2.59744218 Briege Voyle and John Teggart, son of Daniel Teggart. Source: PA Images

Yesterday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson apologised for the killings that took place in Ballymurphy in Belfast in 1971 in a private phone call to First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

John Teggart, the son of one of the ten people killed, said Johnson’s apology was not a public apology, describing it as an “insult to the families”.

Lewis told MPs today that Johnson is to write to the families personally to apologise.

Labour MP Conor McGinn said that the “gravity” of the incident and apology required the presence of the Prime Minister in the Commons today. SNP Carol Monaghan said it was “disappointing” that Boris Johnson wasn’t delivering the apology publicly.

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Louise Haigh also criticised Boris Johnson’s “lack” of actions following the Ballymurphy verdict, noting: “In the aftermath of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, David Cameron came to this House and apologised in a statement – he didn’t brief apologies through disputed calls with politicians, he took full responsibility.

Where is the Prime Minister today and why has he not publicly apologised to the Ballymurphy families and this House?

The inquest verdict: innocent

An inquest into the shooting dead of ten people by the Parachute Regiment of the British Army in west Belfast found that those killed were “entirely innocent”.

The shootings occurred during a period of civil unrest across Belfast and Northern Ireland following the introduction of internment in the early hours of 9 August 1971. The Ballymurphy victims were blamed as a defence of their killings, which the UK Government apologised for today.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who said served in Northern Ireland, paid tribute to the armed forces and said that when “standards fall”, they should be investigated.

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Tory MP Bob Stewart, who served in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, but not in Ballymurphy, said the”vast majority of the British army were in shock when they heard of events like Ballymurphy: “It did not reflect what we felt, we were in deep shock.”

SDLP MP Colum Eastwood raised the case of mother Joan Connelly, who was shot by the British army, and was left dying in the street for four hours.

“That is not an error, that is cold-blooded murder,” he said, and asked that Johnson meet the Ballymurphy families to explain the justice that would be done in response to these killings.

With reporting from the Press Association

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