A coroner in Northern Ireland has ruled that the British army used “clearly disproportionate” force during violence nearly 50 years ago in which ten civilians were shot dead.
At a hearing into the deaths in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, over three days in August 1971, Judge Siobhan Keegan said: “All of the deceased in this series of inquests were entirely innocent of any wrongdoing.”
The 10, including a priest and a mother of eight, were killed at the height of “The Troubles”, the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland that raged over three decades until 1998.
The inquest found that all but one were shot by British soldiers, who had been despatched to the province on a peacekeeping mission in 1969.
In the remaining case, the coroner could not make a “definitive finding” over who fired the fatal shot, according to her inquest summary.
Keegan split the 10 deaths into five investigations and delivered various verdicts including that there was “no convincing evidence… to justify the shooting of the deceased” and “no justification provided by the army”.
In the case of one man the coroner “described the inadequacy of the original investigation as shocking”, the summary said.
The courtroom rang out with applause from families after each of the five verdicts was delivered over the course of three hours.
Dozens of relatives arrived at the court earlier in the day, clutching pictures of their loved ones and wearing T-shirts bearing their portraits.
“It’s been 50 years,” said a tearful Joan Connolly, the 63-year-old daughter of one of the dead. “It’s destroyed our lives, it really has. But we have justice today, we have peace. We have cleared my mummy’s name.”
Podrig O Muirig, a lawyer for the families of the victims, said it had been a very long journey for the families.
“They have waited 50 years for the first evidence-based report and what happened in Ballymurphy in August 1971,” he said. “We had an inquest in 1972 which were deeply flawed. We had no police investigation. There was a historical inquiries team review a decade ago, which was equally flawed. So this is the first time that the British government has been held to account in a court of law.”
Watch the full report in the video player above.