Northern Ireland

Church to release 1971 Ballymurphy killings report

Ballymurphy in 1971
Image caption Soldiers clearing up in the aftermath of the Ballymurphy killings

The Catholic Church is to release its archive documents on 11 people killed by the Army almost 39 years ago.

A Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight were among those killed by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy, west Belfast in August 1971.

The troops claimed they opened fire, after being shot at by republicans.

Down and Connor Bishop Noel Treanor said he was supporting calls for an independent international inquiry into the deaths and a government apology.

Families of those killed made similar calls last month following the release of the Bloody Sunday report into the deaths of 13 people who were killed by Parachute Regiment soldiers in Londonderry six months later.

The previously undisclosed documents to be released on Friday include a report based on eyewitness accounts of the events taken about two weeks after the killings.

'Fear or vindictiveness'

The shootings in Ballymurphy happened during the Army's Operation Demetrius, during which people arrested on suspicion of involvement in paramilitary activity were interned.

According to the Catholic Church, the accounts include "a serving member of the British army, a member of the British Navy who returned to his ship shortly after the shootings and an ex-Irish Guardsman".

"Those who compiled the report indicate that on the basis of the eyewitness accounts, 'we are convinced that the British army units involved, whether through fear or vindictiveness, unnecessarily fired a large number of rounds into the waste grounds across which innocent men, women and children were fleeing'.

In a statement, it said the report found the people killed were not caught in crossfire, and there was "a sufficient weight of evidence to indict the soldiers on the roof of the Springmartin flats".

Dr Treanor will reveal further details about the church's documents on Friday.

West Belfast MP, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, welcomed the decision by the Catholic Church to release the archive documents which he said would "lend support to the families' quest for a fully independent international investigation into these deaths".

He also urged the church to check its records and to publish other similar accounts it may hold of other "past incidents".

SDLP MLA, Alex Attwood, also backed the publication of the documents which he claimed would "confirm the need for the families of the Ballymurphy victims to receive the inquiry, apology and acknowledgement that they deserve".

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