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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Vol. 1007 No. 2

Ballymurphy Inquest: Statements

A week ago, Mrs. Justice Siobhan Keegan delivered her findings on the inquest into the deaths of ten people in Ballymurphy. The road to that moment had been a long and arduous one, but at its end was a profound and historic truth. Each of the ten was innocent. Each was unarmed. Every rumour or allegation about the victims being anything other than ordinary, decent private citizens was powerfully and categorically dismissed. The ten people who lost their lives in August 1971 were innocent victims, civilians, community members, who were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or in a number of cases, were unable to pass by and turn a blind eye to someone in distress or wounded who was calling out for their help.

The days and months that followed the launch of Operation Demetrius on 9 August 1971 are some of the darkest in the history of this island. The families of the Ballymurphy victims battled not just with the overwhelming grief that comes with losing a loved one but also with the false assertions and rumour that accompanied their deaths, which Mrs. Justice Keegan definitively dispelled last week. She told the world what each of those families had known all of the time. The bravery, determination and dedication of the Ballymurphy families in their dogged pursuit of justice in the face of persistent adversity is an example to us all. Throughout this process, successive Governments have worked with the Ballymurphy families and supported them in their campaign to establish the facts of what happened. The time I spent with them on the ground in Belfast while I was Minister for Foreign Affairs stays with me to this day.

On behalf of the Government, I extend my deepest condolences to the Ballymurphy families for what happened during those terrible days in August 1971 and for the grief they have suffered. There is no better tribute to the families' work than to highlight the findings of last Tuesday's report following an inquest that lasted almost three years and to read it now into the record of this House.

In her report, Mrs. Justice Keegan reviewed the ten deaths as part of five "incidences" that took place between 9 and 11 August 1971. The first incident concerned the deaths of Fr. Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn on 9 August. Both were innocent and unarmed. There was evidence that Fr. Mullan was waving a white item as he came to the aid of another man who had been shot. Mrs. Justice Keegan used the word that those who knew Fr. Mullan have repeated time and again over the past 50 years: he was a "peacemaker". She determined that both had been shot by the British Army and that the use of force had been "clearly disproportionate" and unjustified, given that the soldiers were firing from a protected position, that there were civilians fleeing from the violence, and that Fr. Mullan was waving a white flag.

The second incident involved the deaths of Noel Philips, Joan Connolly, John Murphy and Daniel Teggart. All were innocent, unarmed and posing no threat. Mrs. Justice Keegan was satisfied that they were shot by the British Army from Henry Taggart hall. The use of force by the army was clearly disproportionate given the number of civilians around and as soldiers were in a protected position in the hall. Mrs. Justice Keegan said that these were innocent people, and their deaths had been a tragedy to their families.

The third incident regarded the death of Edward Doherty. Mr. Doherty was an innocent man who posed no threat and had come across the events on the Whiterock Road while passing by. Mr. Doherty was killed by soldier M3, using disproportionate force, and, as Mrs. Justice Keegan noted, the actions of soldier M3 were not properly examined or investigated at the time.

The fourth incident involved the deaths of Joseph Corr and John Laverty. Mrs. Justice Keegan found that Mr. Laverty was shot in the back while crouching or prone. Both were shot by the British Army, with no valid justification provided for soldiers opening fire. The men were not armed or acting in a manner that could be perceived as posing a threat. Mrs. Justice Keegan noted that no adequate investigation was subsequently carried out by the Royal Military Police. Mrs. Justice Keegan stated that it had been wrong to describe the two men as gunmen at the time and that rumour should be dispelled.

The fifth incident involved the death of John McKerr. Mr. McKerr was an entirely innocent man who was shot indiscriminately on the street. He was not armed or behaving in any way that would explain why he was shot. He had no associations with the IRA. Mrs. Justice Keegan could not make a definitive finding as to who shot Mr. McKerr and from where the shot had been fired. However, she described the inadequacy of the original investigation as shocking. Not one statement was taken from the military in the area, the scene was not sealed and the bullet was not recovered. There had been an abject failing by the authorities to inquire into the death of an innocent civilian on the streets. This failure had hampered the inquest greatly and was the striking feature of the case which Mrs. Justice Keegan recorded in the strongest of terms.

This is the truth about the ten civilians who were killed in Ballymurphy and this is what history will record. I would also like to pay my condolences to the family of Paddy McCarthy, who died of a heart attack on 11 August 1971, following an altercation with soldiers in Ballymurphy, and whose death did not form part of this inquest.

It has been a long, hard struggle for truth and justice. As John Teggart, whose father Danny was killed, said last week, the families sat through 100 days of evidence during the inquest and relived the horror of what happened to their loved ones, day in, day out. Mr. Teggart also pointed out that many family members, witnesses and campaigners have died along the half-century road to justice. It was also a journey marked by entirely unfounded speculation and suspicion. As Mrs. Justice Keegan noted in her findings, the blackening of these names led to some victims' families being isolated and enduring hardship in their own communities. Grief and loss was compounded by shame and a palpable sense of injustice as their loved ones were murdered and posthumously defamed. Briege Voyle, daughter of Joan Connolly, spoke bravely last week about the impact on families' mental health and how trauma effectively ruined so many lives beyond the ten who were murdered. She noted her father, left to raise eight children alone, never recovered from Joan's death. Eileen McKeown, daughter of Joseph Corr, spoke about how the hearts, hopes and dreams of her family were "shattered" by his killing. John McKerr was a former British army soldier who lost his hand in the Second World War and was proud of his military service. His daughter, Anne Ferguson, spoke at her family's shock and sense of betrayal at his killing, as he was such a proud military man.

It should not have taken this long to establish the full truth about Joan, Joseph, John and all the Ballymurphy victims. I hope, though, that the families can take solace from the full truth finally being told and from this part of their journey coming to an end. The findings of the inquest were very significant and there must be a recognition of the appalling hurt caused to the families.

When I met with Prime Minister Johnson on Friday, we discussed the inquest results and the impact that the lack of a proper and impartial investigation into the killings has had on the families over the past 50 years. I also discussed with the Prime Minister the acknowledgement and apologies that have already been made. I emphasised the importance of the British Government responding in a way that recognises the gravity of the findings, which categorically established that ten innocent people were killed, and in a way that respects the wishes of the families. Following that discussion, I would hope that all opportunities will be taken to convey and underline that acknowledgement of the seriousness of these findings.

Prime Minister Johnson and I also spoke about the wider issue of legacy and of how best to secure progress and answers for the many other families who, like those in Ballymurphy, or in Kingsmill, or in Birmingham, have been pursuing truth and justice for far too many years. Yesterday was the 47th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, another of the darkest days of the conflict, and those families' search for the full facts of what happened to their loved ones continues also. I was clear with the Prime Minister that every family bereaved should have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice, regardless of the perpetrator. The Stormont House Agreement framework allows for the crucial elements we need - investigations, truth recovery, oral history, reconciliation and acknowledgement. While the Government is ready to engage and work with the British Government and the Northern Ireland parties in relation to any concerns around aspects of the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, I made clear that this must be a collaborative and collective process and must have the needs of victims at its heart. I was clear that unilateral action cannot be the basis of any sustainable way forward. We will continue to engage with the UK Government on this.

While the terrible details of these unjustifiable killings are a sombre reminder of the dark years that this island endured, and while many challenges still remain, I strongly believe that we are in a far better place today. I would also like to say that I do not accept the argument made by some that the campaigns and advocacy by victims and survivors in Northern Ireland in some way delays or undermines the work of reconciliation. The work and advocacy of so many of those who lost their loved ones, including the Ballymurphy families, is about bringing truth to light and bringing accountability. I have met many of those working for victims who are at the very forefront of the work of reconciliation, who show dignity and generosity and vision for the future. It is all the stronger because it comes from a deep-seated determination that such violence should never be allowed to re-emerge on this island again.

The Good Friday Agreement has allowed communities in Northern Ireland to come together in a spirit of empathy and reconciliation. This was evident again in the past week, as politicians, community leaders and citizens from all communities came out to welcome the inquest report and stand in solidarity with the Ballymurphy families. Let us continue to move forward, utilising the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement, to deliver further reconciliation and ensure that other families, across all communities, like those in Ballymurphy, have their day when the truth finally emerges and is publicly acknowledged.

“All entirely innocent of any wrongdoing” - these were the words of the coroner last Tuesday confirming what so many had known for 50 years, that the ten people shot dead in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, by the parachute regiment in 1971 were all innocent civilians, all victims of British state murder, all ordinary people living their lives, all people with hopes and dreams for the future, all taken away from their families, friends and communities in the cruellest of ways.

This massacre occurred against the backdrop of the introduction of internment without trial, against the backdrop of sectarian pogroms waged against nationalists, as the British and Orange states violently lashed back against the just demand for civil rights. It was against this backdrop that the parachute regiment entered Ballymurphy, or the Murph, as it is called, and murdered Francis Quinn, Fr. Hugh Mullan, Noel Phillips, Joan Connolly, Danny Teggart, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr and John James McKerr.

Joan Connolly was shot as she ran to the aid of Noel Connolly. Fr. Mullan, the parish priest, was shot while waving a white cloth as he ran to help another victim.

Some of those who were killed were shot in the back. Some were shot as they crawled or crouched for safety. Pat McCarthy, the 11th victim not covered by the inquest, died of a heart attack, not after an altercation but after a para put an empty gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. These killings were not accidents. They were the outworking of premeditated British policy, proven by the fact that the very same regiment would shoot dead another 14 innocent civilians on the streets of Derry less than a year later.

In the aftermath of the Ballymurphy massacre, the soldiers congratulated each other in full belief that their Government would protect them, cover up for them. They patted each other on the back for a job well done, such was the contempt they felt for the lives they had taken. For decades, the black propaganda from British authorities was that those shot in Ballymurphy were armed and posed a threat, a narrative propped up by the lack of any meaningful investigation into the killings. They were not armed. They posed no threat. These have been exposed for the shameful lies that they were, exposed as a cover-up of the horrors the parachute regiment inflicted on the people of Ballymurphy.

Now the dark clouds of lies have been parted and the truth has been set free. We would have never got here if it was not for the families. Everything they went through was summed up in the words of Alice Harper whose father Danny Teggart was shot 14 times during the massacre. She said:

We’ve waited a long time, 50 years is a long time to wait. We always knew they were innocent, but now it has been proven, and for what our family has been through, not just our family but all the families, I’m overwhelmed today. It’s just a relief now that we can shout from the rooftops that our Daddy was innocent.

Her brother John said:

We have corrected history today. The inquest confirmed that the soldiers who came to the area supposedly to protect us … turned their guns on us.

On Thursday, I was with the families in Ballymurphy. It is a meeting I will remember for the rest of my life. It was humbling to be with them and to hear how they felt following the verdict. I have always been and remain in awe of their courage, resilience and above all else, perhaps, their stamina. I am in awe of their humanity. It is hard to fathom what it must have been like for these families to wake up every morning since 1971 and to feel the immense loss and injustice, to see the empty chair, to think about the beautiful lives ripped away from them and then to face the torrent of lies about their loved ones and still be able to carry on. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, against overwhelming odds and for 50 years, found in themselves an inspirational reservoir of strength to keep going. Some have grown up looking for the truth, some have grown old and some have died, heartbroken, without it, but they refused to allow the propaganda to stand. They refused to allow their loved ones to be forgotten and with unwavering determination they cut through the lies of the British state. They gave it everything they had and they prevailed.

The result of the inquest is bitter sweet for the families. The botched apology offered to them by Boris Johnson has caused hurt and anger. The apology was silent on the massacre. It did not mention the paras. As Mary Kate Quinn, the niece John Laverty, described it, it was the apology of a government "more concerned about laying the groundwork for amnesty legislation." Ms Quinn was referring to the confirmation of the British Government that it will now attempt to block the families from getting justice. This it will do in open defiance of the Stormont House Agreement, an international agreement signed with the Irish Government on dealing with the legacy of the past. On the very same day as the Ballymurphy families saw their loved ones declared innocent, on the day the door to the truth was finally opened, the door to justice was slammed in their faces.

The Stormont House Agreement is about facilitating the pursuit of truth and justice in a balanced, transparent, inclusive and fair manner. It is wholly unacceptable that the British Government is set to walk away from these obligations and instead put in place rogue legislation that is unashamedly designed avoid accountability. It seems that those paras who patted each other on the back in 1971 were right after all: their government, their system, will do absolutely everything it can to protect them. This is wholly about stopping the Ballymurphy families and so many other families across the board from having justice for their loved ones.

When I spoke to the Ballymurphy families last week they made it clear that amnesties must be off the table, and they are absolutely right. Those involved in British state murder of innocent civilians must be held to account. Boris Johnson and the British Government must face up to that. Britain can no longer continue hiding its dirty war in Ireland. Proceeding with an amnesty at the expense of pursuing accountability will have profound and fundamental implications for confidence in the rule of law and for the administration of justice. Making agreements is important in our peace process but keeping agreements is even more so. The British Government cannot be allowed to tear up Stormont House and wash its hands of the families right to justice. It is wrong, disrespectful, deeply hurtful and it is not on.

In February, members of this Dáil stood as one in calling for the British Government to honour its commitment to introduce legislation to implement the Stormont House Agreement to protect the right to truth and justice. The cynical behaviour on the part of Mr. Johnson and his Government must be forcefully challenged by our Government in Dublin. Dublin must now stand four-square behind the Ballymurphy families and all of those waiting decades for the truth about what happened to their loved ones. The message must go clearly from this Chamber that this will not stand, because the Ballymurphy families are very clear that their journey is not over, far from it. They are intent on justice. They are taking this stand not just for their own families or for their own community of the Murph, they are taking this stand for everyone. After 50 years fighting for the truth to be set free, after 50 years seeking vindication for their loved ones, after 50 years of an inspirational struggle, it is the very least they deserve.

The Ballymurphy families never gave up. The Ballymurphy families gave in and now they must have justice. It is the job of the Irish Government to ensure that Boris Johnson and his Tory Government cannot deny them that.

The coroner Mrs. Justice Keegan reported after the longest running inquiry to date in Northern Ireland. Her findings could not have been clearer or more stark that over three shocking days in August of 1971, the ten victims who were shot and killed in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast were entirely innocent and their killings were unjustified. Unjustified was as far as the coroner could legally go. Their names must be individually recalled in the House: Francis Quinn, Fr. Hugh Mullan, Noel Phillips, Joan Connolly, Daniel Teggart, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr and John McKerr.

Now that truth is properly in the public domain, it must be appropriately responded to by the British Prime Minister and Government.

In a letter addressed collectively to the families on 12 May, Prime Minister Johnson expressed his sorrow over what had happened. What is appropriate and proper is for him to travel to Belfast and extend his government’s apology directly to the families of the victims. He should also make a personal statement to the House of Commons, as a previous UK Prime Minister, Mr. David Cameron, did following the Bloody Sunday inquiry. It is also required that the measures in the painstaking work completed in the Stormont House Agreement be implemented now, particularly the paragraphs focused on dealing with legacy issues, namely paragraphs 21 to 55.

The heartbreaking legacy of decades of violence on our island and in Britain has left deep and lasting wounds. Those wounds stretch into many households. The Taoiseach referred to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. My sister and her husband were seriously injured in the Film Centre, O’Connell Bridge House, in 1972. I remember the impact that had on our family. I recall going, as a young person, to see both of them in the Mater Hospital. It was surrounded by troops and gardaí because the chief of staff of the Provisional IRA, Seán Mac Stíofáin, was on hunger strike there at the time.

We need a way of addressing all these hurts. I would in no way want to place my family’s hurt in parallel with the grievous hurt of people who have lost family members and, worse, whose memories have been trampled upon, whose reputations have been traduced and who have been lied against for decades. That must come to an end.

Many thoughtful proposals examining processes that have worked to some degree internationally have been advanced. As an Oireachtas, perhaps we need to see whether we can build future agreement on a way to supplement the paragraphs in the Stormont House Agreement, that is, those dealing with the past, implementation and reconciliation.

Years do not diminish a family’s pain. In this regard, let us consider the individual families’ reactions after the vindication, decades later, of their reputation, having carried the burden of hurt for so long. To have final vindication is so important, redeeming and meaningful for the families. We really do have to struggle to find a way of achieving this appropriately for the many others touched upon by the Taoiseach in his speech and so many more who are struggling with the pain in silence right now. The denial of truth merely adds immeasurably to the great pain being endured. Therefore, while we heartily welcome the findings of the Ballymurphy inquiry and call on the British Government to fully react to it appropriately and properly, we need to bring the relief experienced by the Ballymurphy families to so many other families who are enduring great hurt.

I am here as a Deputy from County Louth, a Border county. Having lived there all my life, I know how difficult, sad and tragic the loss of any life is on our island. My county has suffered greatly in many ways. I am also Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. Our members have agreed unanimously that the families of the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre should come to the Oireachtas next Tuesday to talk to us about how they feel about what happened to their relatives and what must happen. I hope we will reach an all-party consensus on that.

Like other Members, I would like to record the names of those who died: Frank Quinn, Fr. Hugh Mullan, Noel Phillips, Joan Connolly, Danny Teggart, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, John Laverty, Joseph Corr and John James McKerr, and Paddy McCarthy, who died separately.

I agree with what we are all saying here, that is, that the fight for 50 years to get justice and clarity is not fully resolved. The decision of the coroner, Mrs. Justice Siobhan Keegan, absolutely vindicated the battle that was fought for so many decades to ensure the innocence of all those who died on the day of the Ballymurphy massacre would be established clearly for all time. There is no hiding place from the truth. The truth is that the victims have been absolutely vindicated. The inquest was the longest ever held in Northern Ireland. Mrs. Justice Keegan, when announcing the outcome of the inquiry, was very clear in pointing out the difference between the general nature of the evidence given by the British army, which was shown not to be specific or clear, and the clear, specific evidence given by the local witnesses. It was said that the actions of the British army went unchallenged and led later to the appalling vista of Bloody Sunday, where again the parachute regiment ran riot, with many innocent people dying as a result.

I am aware of and respect what is held sacred by the families. The Taoiseach and Deputy Howlin referred to the 47th anniversary of the Dublin bombings. A lady from Drogheda, Concepta Dempsey, was murdered in those bombings. She was a 65-year-old lady who came from a very staunch Fine Gael family in Drogheda. In fact, Mrs. Kathleen Dempsey was the first female mayor of Drogheda. What happened was a tragedy.

The reality is that the Stormont House Agreement is crystal clear on the way forward to deal with the historic issues that arise as a result of all the troubles in the North. The historical investigations unit, whose points were clear and well thought-out, brought comfort to all those who signed up to that agreement, namely the Irish Government, the British Government and, indeed, the parties in Northern Ireland at the time. The agreement is victim-centred. It is about justice but also reconciliation. Reconciliation cannot happen without a due apology. There has not been a clear apology as far as the families are concerned. Many people, including me, have noted what the UK Prime Minister has not done; he has not met the families personally and he has not offered an apology in a contrite and humble way, which he is obliged to do. He is obliged to apologise to them for the hurt and the awful wrong done to them. Until that happens, there will not be full closure for the families. They are entitled to and need it. It is what the country needs.

We face new circumstances in Northern Ireland and major changes, including demographic changes, that the next decade or decades will bring. The unionist parties in the North will soon be led by two new, separate leaders. There is a need for a new relationship between all of us on this island. I welcome very much the initiative of the Taoiseach and his Government in respect of a shared island unit.

The way forward can only and will only be by working together and reaching out. One of the problems we have in this country is meeting and understanding each other. The most significant problem we face on our committee, although I know it is not the first time the Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement has had this issue, is relating to, and meeting in the appropriate location to talk to, our unionist colleagues in the North of our country. There is no reluctance on our side to meet with them. There is no set agenda or prerequisite. We want to hear, listen and understand. We want to reconcile the traditions on this island in a constructive, positive way, recognising and respecting all on this island, whatever views they hold, be they Catholic, Protestant, any other religion or none, whether they are unionist, nationalist, Alliance or whatever. We want to work together and build up our shared island and our economy North-South, and emphasise the progress with cross-Border education, health, transport, energy policy and so on. That is our future together.

This opportunity is one for all of us to renew our commitment to justice, peace and reconciliation, and to make sure of that for the families who suffered so greatly as a result of the death of their loved ones in that appalling massacre in Ballymurphy. This is our opportunity to look to all of the people on this island, especially the unionist population and their new political leaders. We want reconciliation and understanding. We want closure on this past. I know that all of us on our committee are more than anxious to meet with these families and to show our respect for them and the fight and battle they have fought for all of us. They represent what we need to reconcile. We need to make sure that there is never a repetition of those vile and awful scenes that happened in Ballymurphy, in Derry on Bloody Sunday, and so on. We look forward together to a new future and the British Government cannot be allowed and must not renege on the promises and commitments it signed up to in the Stormont House Agreement. It is essential that the truth comes out and that justice is served. Reconciliation will not occur until that is done.

Almost 50 years ago, the parachute regiment murdered 11 people in Ballymurphy estate in Belfast. For 50 years, the families of those murdered by British soldiers have fought for truth and justice. It has taken almost 50 years to prove that every one of the victims was an innocent civilian killed as an oppressive state's forces swept through the North, interning Catholic men of all ages without trial and without any cause bar where they lived. The truth has now been laid bare for all to see. It has been many years since I first met the families of those killed in August 1971. Today we remember those who did not live to see their relatives' innocence proven and their crusade for justice vindicated. It is a pity that the families' pain mixed with joy at the coroner's verdict was met with such a cruel, indifferent non-apology from the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Johnson's Government wants to legislate away the atrocities committed by crown forces in the North of Ireland and pretend they never happened. It wants to cover up the role of the British army in the conflict and to legislate and put current and former British soldiers beyond justice and international law. The British Government has no intention of fulfilling its obligations in the North. The last thing it wants is truth or reconciliation. The Ballymurphy families, the Finucane family, and the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings have been forced to campaign for decades for the truth to come out about those atrocities.

Yesterday marked the 47th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, another act of violence on this island aided and abetted by the British state. Thirty-four people were killed that day, the most at any point in the conflict. The families believe that British security forces and their agents provided logistics to aid the bombers that day but every attempt to uncover the truth has been stonewalled by successive British Governments. The British Government maintains its public position of silence and repeats its worn-out, rehearsed words of denial. It refuses to release the relevant files and information that it has on the attacks that killed 34 innocent people, including an unborn child, and injured and maimed almost 300.

Every death in the conflict was a tragedy. No family's grief counts for less than any other. There should never be a hierarchy of victims but there clearly is when it comes to those who were murdered by British state forces. For wounds to heal and for growth and progress to really flourish, we need a truth and reconciliation process that deals with the past. This was agreed in the Stormont House talks by both Governments and all political parties. If we allow those wrongs to fester and remain, we will never collectively move on from the hurt and rancour that this type of pain inflicts over generations. The cycle of state violence to oppress a people and try to make them cower in submission is not a new tactic, but it is one that seldom works. It breeds resistance and leads to further conflict. We saw it in Ballymurphy, in Derry following Bloody Sunday, in Dublin and in Monaghan. We see it today in Gaza and East Jerusalem.

Today, I join colleagues across the Chamber in talking of truth and the manner in which it should manifest in justice. We often hear the phrase "justice delayed is justice denied". For the families whose loved ones have been killed by the forces of a state, the importance of justice cannot be overstated. It is necessary for families and communities to come to terms with events that turned their world upside down. Justice is meant to shine a light. It is supposed to get to the truth and it is supposed to work to ensure that we hold those responsible accountable. Justice is the only pathway we have in a civil society that can bring us to truth and reconciliation.

In 1971, the British army implemented a policy of internment across Northern Ireland. People suspected of being members of the IRA could be arrested and detained without trial. A number of raids were carried out and in all, more than 1,000 people were interned without trial. Justice is one of the main pillars that underpins democracy. We understand justice to mean that those accused of a criminal offence would have access to due process, to a speedy trial, to a defence team and the outcome of a trial would be determined by a jury of their peers. Where was the justice?

Justice delayed is justice denied and the Ballymurphy massacre is a clear example of how the British state, the RUC and the British army colluded and acted to ensure that justice was denied. Generations of families and entire communities were forced to grieve for their people while having to fight for answers, fight for truth and fight for accountability. Where was the justice? During an internment raid in Ballymurphy, Belfast, in August 1971, ten civilians were shot and killed by the British army, including a priest who was giving the last rites. Another man died from a heart attack shortly after a gun was placed in his mouth by a soldier of the British forces. The following year, in 1972, an inquest returned an open verdict on all those killed. Where was their justice?

Just a few weeks ago, the families finally got a fair inquest which was held to reconsider what happened in Ballymurphy in August 1971. This time, a coroner found that all those killed were innocent and that the killings were without justification. Yet in the same week, the British Prime Minister was considering an amnesty whereby no soldier could be held accountable for their actions prior to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and so I ask again, where is the justice?

Despite the clear and obvious evidence which demonstrated what had happened, lies were told, stories were spun, the innocent were blamed and those who killed were allowed to continue with the brutality against people, families and communities across Northern Ireland for years to come. If we are ever to come to terms with our past and to deal with legacy issues that took place in all communities, we need to know the truth. We, the communities, the victims and their families deserve to know the truth.

We need to know what took place, what happened, who decided what should happen and who carried that out. We must understand this as political violence and recognise that civilians and the British army cannot be equated. We cannot and should not forget the past but, if we are ever to move on, we cannot just leave it behind. We have to come to terms with what happened and build towards a peaceful future together. We must learn from the mistakes made and the atrocities committed in the past to ensure they never happen again. There are many across our island who speak and search for truth.

A point was already made about the 47th anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and the families who still seek truth. I will raise the case of another individual, a friend of mine, who is being treated in a grotesquely unfair manner on our island. Will our Government demand that the British Government immediately remove the current 84-year embargo on all files relating to the case of the Reavey brothers? Three innocent young brothers were murdered at Whitecross, County Armagh, on 4 January 1976 by the so-called Glenanne gang, simply because they were Catholics. Will our Government demand that the British Government apologise to the innocent brother, Eugene Reavey, for the scurrilous smear campaign deliberately orchestrated against him for decades? In the history of what became known as the Troubles, it would be difficult to find anyone who has suffered as much while maintaining as much dignity as Eugene Reavey. He is a true champion of peace and a co-founder of the Truth and Reconciliation Platform who, like the families of the Ballymurphy massacre victims, deserves his truth, his redemption and his apology. He deserves to be held up as a beacon of truth in our country.

I urge the Taoiseach and this Government to insist that the British Government reconsider its version of an amnesty and instead revert to the Stormont House Agreement, agreed and established to deliver necessary mechanisms capable of dealing with our history and shared trauma. Only this can ensure that the rights of the victims, all those who died, who were injured, who were interned or who witnessed violence as adults or as children, to truth and reconciliation are vindicated.

I join with my colleagues in the Chamber in recognising the strength and dignity of the families of Ballymurphy in demanding justice over all of these years. So many other families are in similar situations and are still yearning for justice. References have been made to the anniversary of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings. In recent months, we heard news of demands being made of the British Government with regard to the reopening of the inquest into the murder of Pat Finucane. We have seen the British Government avoid, as best it can, calls for justice, transparency and openness at every turn. We have seen obfuscation through official inquiries, which have been described here as blocking the truth. We have seen refusals by the British Government and state to release papers and archives. We have seen the hard drives of the Cory inquiry seized and destroyed while the inquiry was still in progress. These are really nasty and insidious things that are ultimately blocking the truth. As everyone here has said, this is a trauma and truth and reconciliation are needed to help us all move forward. I have been talking to my colleagues in the Green Party in Northern Ireland a lot with regard to the need to address this trauma.

While holding Westminster to account is incredibly important as it is Westminster that is most responsible for blocking this, we also need to look to ourselves. The Irish Government signed up to the Stormont House Agreement. We are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement. The independent commission on information retrieval that makes up part of this will need legislation in both London and Dublin if it is to work properly. Why are we waiting on a government in London that has shown time and again that it does not want the truth to come out and that is seeking to block the truth? I have been asking the Minister for Justice about this and I have been told that ongoing contact is being made with our British counterparts. No timeline has been given. There is no suggestion as to when this legislation can be implemented.

We need to take responsibility ourselves and move ahead, even if it means moving ahead without the British Government. We need to move ahead to start the conversation about what the independent commission on information retrieval will look like and how it will function. By starting that conversation, we can put greater pressure on the British Government to come with us, to act and to seek out the truth to help address the trauma. We need to take responsibility ourselves. The Irish Government, as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, needs to push ahead and help the relatives in their fight for truth and justice. We can do that by pushing ahead with our own developments in respect of the independent commission agreed to in the Stormont House Agreement, to which we signed up. If others will not play their part, we should still be seen to carry out our role. Throughout the Brexit process, the Government of the time spoke a lot about how Northern Ireland should never be left behind again. This is another situation in which Northern Ireland should not be left behind. We need to play our part even if others do not. We need to move ahead without those who just want to block any truth and, ultimately, any reconciliation.

The findings of Mrs. Justice Keegan are harrowing to read and, I am sure, deeply painful for the family members, 50 years on. Mrs. Justice Keegan's words declare that those involved, members and loved ones of those families, were entirely innocent. This provides some justice to those who have spent decades seeking it. That the British Government has had it in its power to do this for decades and did nothing is truly shameful. The attempts to blacken the names of the relatives of these families in the aftermath were shameful. That the British Government forced these families into a 50-year fight for truth and acknowledgement of those killed is shameful. Their families and community knew all along that they were innocent but, in the interests of justice, they wanted this acknowledged publicly, something which many other victims have yet to secure. The verdict this week should ensure that all parties act with haste to address this failure in respect of those other victims.

The inquest highlighted acts of basic inhumanity when describing how Joan Connolly, a mother of eight, was shot and left to lie injured in a field and to die before being transported to a nearby hall. We read this alongside the story of Fr. Hugh Mullan, shot while waving a white cloth and trying to aid an injured man, and the stories of all the other victims of that three-day period in 1971.

In light of all of this, the actions of the present-day British Government seem all the more crass and irresponsible. Prime Minister Johnson has failed to apologise publicly to these families and, on election day, leaked plans to introduce an effective amnesty for British soldiers. This is shameful indeed. It flies in the face of the peace process and the Stormont House Agreement. While the British Government says that it only wants to exempt British soldiers, we all know this cannot be done without extending the amnesty to all of those who were involved in violence. That would be a blatant violation of the Stormont House Agreement and devastating for those who pursue truth and who face the prospect of never being able to seek justice.

In 2019, I had the privilege of welcoming the families of the Birmingham bombing victims to Dublin. They also met with an tUachtarán and the then Tánaiste. They want justice too. They want the British Government to hold a public inquiry. They want the murderers of their relatives to face justice. They have been informed by the British Government that they specifically lie outside the legacy provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. I believe the Irish Government can help in this case. Justice 4 the 21, with which I met again last week, has given me a list of documents which the Irish Government can release which would help them in their pursuit of truth.

There are many other victims who seek justice. The anniversaries this week of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and of the murders of Gavin McShane and Shane McArdle in Armagh are further reminders that legacy issues must be dealt with. The Ballymurphy families endured for 50 years. We must not allow others wait any longer. All parties to the peace process must contribute to a solution. In particular, the parties in Northern Ireland must work together and work the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement in order to bring forward solutions to support the families of victims and to put pressure on both Governments, and particularly the British Government. Failure to do so would mean traumatising victims again with each passing year.

It would mean that bullets fired 50 years ago continued to injure many decades later.

"It has taken 50 years ... for my brother and my neighbours to be vindicated. And that 50 years has destroyed our lives." These are the words of Carmel Quinn, whose brother, John Laverty, was murdered in 1971. It is important to put on the Dáil record just how horrific that atrocity was. Between 9 and 11 August 1971, more than 600 soldiers entered the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast. During that three-day period, 11 people were brutally murdered. Last week, Mrs. Justice Siobhan Keegan stated that, in every single case, the death was not adequately investigated. That was because there was no investigation. She also stated that all of the deaths were in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, namely, the right to life. Why was there no adequate investigation? There was cover-up after cover-up. On the same day that Mrs. Justice Keegan delivered her findings, the British Government had the gall, which comes as no surprise to any of us who understand Britain's dirty war in Ireland, to decide to propose an amnesty.

Last week, Boris Johnson apologised for what he described as the Ballymurphy "events". What happened in Ballymurphy was not an "event", nor was it a "situation". It was a massacre. Words matter. It was a massacre that lasted for three days and where British army soldiers wreaked havoc on the streets of Ballymurphy. Ballymurphy cannot be apologised away. It was a three-day sustained attack.

Let us be frank - the apology was just a distraction. The families are clear. They did not ask for an apology. They asked for accountability and justice. They have waited 50 years to hear the word "innocent", with far too many family members having passed away before seeing that day. We cannot make the families wait any longer. To do so would be to prolong their torture and trauma.

Boris Johnson is saying "Sorry" on the one hand and, on the other, he is intending to grant amnesty to the very soldiers who murdered these people. That the finding of innocent and the rumblings of amnesty were brought to light on the same day was no coincidence. It is British state policy to continue denying these families the accountability that they deserve. We have to be straight with the British Government, in that people cannot destroy a community, lives and families and get away with it.

The Dáil needs to speak with one voice and tell the British Government that amnesty is off the table. The Irish Government needs to be strong when telling the British Government that the mechanisms within the Stormont House Agreement, of which the British Government is a co-guarantor, must be implemented in full, not just for the families of Ballymurphy, but every family seeking truth and accountability. Without accountability, how does Boris Johnson even know what he is apologising for?

After a long and difficult campaign, the Ballymurphy massacre families have been vindicated at last. It was moving to see their relief and joy. The Irish State, Government and media were all over them last week, but where were they for the decades the families were knocking on their doors seeking justice? It made me think about how most states will cover up events to which they do not want to own up - what the Black Lives Matter campaign in America has pointed to, the Stardust victims in Dublin, the family of Terence Wheelock, the family of Shane O'Farrell and, most lately, George Nkencho. Their families are knocking on doors but being denied justice. I plead with the Taoiseach to listen to them and ensure that justice is not delayed for others.

Within hours of the announcement of the findings of the Ballymurphy massacre inquest, we saw the bizarre scenario of one arm of the British state, the judiciary, judging members of another arm of the British state, the army, who were responsible for killing ten innocent civilians, and a third arm, the British Government, announcing that it wanted to make plans to make those perpetrators and the perpetrators of all other violence immune from prosecution. The British Government has to be challenged on this. Its plans to end the reinvestigation of killings by state forces in Northern Ireland are wrong. All families of victims deserve independent, fully resourced investigations into the deaths of their loved ones. They deserve the support of our Government in seeking that.

The British Government must be made to feel the pressure to stick by the Stormont House Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement. Various public consultations on how to deal with the past have come and gone in the North. Habitually, London has broken its commitments. Britain must not now be allowed to bail out of its commitments to previous agreements.

Interestingly, Prince Charles is in Belfast today. He is the colonel-in-chief of the parachute regiment, the regiment responsible for Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday. I wonder whether anyone will ask him his views on these outcomes and invite him to apologise to the families.

Boris Johnson and the Tory Party are feigning concern for former British soldiers. According to the Royal British Legion, 6,000 former British soldiers are homeless on the streets of Britain, many of them dependent on food banks. Some 10,000 are in jail or on probation and 50,000 suffer from permanent mental health issues or injuries and are dependent on state services. These veterans live in miserable conditions and are not respected by the British Government. As many as 200 former soldiers could now face prosecution if the British Government is prevented from getting away with its latest move. Is that what it is scared of? It has a great deal to lose through the testimony of almost 200 former British soldiers if they are allowed to be prosecuted in Northern Ireland.

We have to stand up to the British Government and honour the memory of the Ballymurphy families, the Bloody Sunday families and others by not allowing it to rewrite history and stop the investigations into all of the deaths that have occurred.

"His apology means nothing, we need him to go back to the MoD and tell them to tell the truth, tell our legal team the names of the soldiers who murdered our loved ones and ask them why." These are the words of Briege Voyle, whose mother, Joan Connolly, was murdered in Ballymurphy. She spoke in the immediate aftermath of the coroner's verdict, which made it clear that these were civilians who posed no threat and were unarmed. At least nine of the ten were certainly shot by the British army. She spoke at the same time as the British Prime Minister was wrapping his arms around plans for a blanket amnesty for British soldiers in an attempt to whitewash the role that the British state played in the North.

I have no faith in the British state, the Irish State or the forces of nationalism and unionism to resolve historical issues meaningfully. All have an interest in obscuring the role they played during the Troubles. Instead, we need a process independent of these forces that can deliver truth and justice for victims and their families. Representing working-class people from across the sectarian divide, trade union activists can play an important role in such a process alongside genuine human rights campaigners and others.

I appreciate the opportunity to contribute on this timely and poignant debate. In my brief time as a Member, I have never been more struck by a debate where there has been such a unified opinion across the Chamber as well as such genuine compassion for the people at the heart of this scandal, the bereaved families of those ten innocent people who were murdered in Ballymurphy 50 years ago. That they had to wait so long to get vindication and justice for their relatives is a damning indictment of everyone involved in the political system across these islands.

I was struck by the address made by the Taoiseach at the outset of the debate. It was compassionate, sincere and detailed, and went through each of the incidents. It was in direct contrast with what we have seen from the British Prime Minister since the results of the inquest were revealed. To use the words of the lawyer for the families involved, his response has been "cack-handed".

We all have a responsibility not just to speak in this Chamber, but to use every lever at our disposal to ensure that our counterparts across the water know the importance of seeing a full and public state apology from the British Prime Minister.

Furthermore, there should be individual apologies to each and every one of the families of the victims of this absolute travesty of justice that took place so many years ago. We have opportunities to act in the coming weeks and months. For those of us who remember the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, it is important to note that there will be a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in June. We all engage with political colleagues throughout Great Britain at various political, governmental and parliamentary levels. It is important that we reflect the absolutely sombre mood of this Chamber on this matter and make sure that message is put across. It is clear that the result of the inquest was meant to provide some amount of relief and dignity for the families involved. Unfortunately, the political response in the United Kingdom has simply done more to increase the level of trauma and upset that has been lingering for decades.

This leads on to the next step in the reconciliation process across these islands. If we are to have truly meaningful engagement and reconciliation, we must have an open and fair approach to issues such as legacy in order to ensure justice is done for all victims throughout the period in question. Colleagues across the Chamber have rightly said that we are very concerned by the political movements in Great Britain, particularly in England, that would deprive families of the levels of justice that the Good Friday and Stormont House Agreements afford. I was struck by the motion passed in the US Senate last night reaffirming its commitment not just to the Good Friday and St. Andrews Agreements but also the Stormont House Agreement and, indeed, the Northern Irish protocol to the withdrawal agreement. This is something that is often lost in the discussion on these issues, if there is a discussion, in Westminster. We often have to rely on Northern Irish Members of Parliament taking their seats or on a number of sympathetic Members from the likes of the Scottish National Party or others who have specific connections to Ireland to ensure that at least some semblance of a nationalist voice is heard. The vast majority of English MPs simply want nothing to do with this.

We are dedicating an entire debate in this Parliament to the findings of the Ballymurphy inquest for very good reason. It is important that we do so and that the Seanad had a similar debate last week. I was very struck by how my colleague, Senator Currie, methodically read out the names of every single victim, something that has also been done by a number of Deputies today, including the Taoiseach and Deputy McDonald. It is important that we remember them not just as details or statistics but as brothers, sisters, children, parents and loved ones who were slaughtered in the streets and were absolutely innocent. We are not seeing that happening in the Palace of Westminster. We need to be quite firm with our friends across Great Britain that all of us have responsibilities to the victims. If we want to move forward in a new relationship across this island and across these islands, we have to be clear that nothing can be swept under the carpet. That happens with both state actors and non-state actors. We must not glorify the atrocities and we must not ignore them. We must be open and frank and put the victims at the heart of the pursuit of justice. There are many more victims who are deserving of having that level of truth, justice and, crucially, respect shown to them. Respecting the principles of the Good Friday and Stormont House Agreements cannot simply be a temporary plaything. It must define everything we do politically on this island and across these islands in terms of developing relationships and providing an element of succour and closure for victims.

I pay credit to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, who will wrap up the debate. I commend every Member of the House who has engaged consistently with the families of the victims of the Ballymurphy massacre. I understand Deputy McDonald was in Belfast last week with Senator Ó Donnghaile and others. That engagement must continue until the families truly believe their case has been heard, justice has been delivered and the truth has won out. It is a challenge for us all not simply to end the discussion this evening but to continue it in an open and compassionate manner. We must not seek to score political points on matters that are parallel to this debate but, instead, try to put passionate reconciliation at the heart of our discussions, understanding that many people were hurt and many are still waiting for justice. The people who are most important in this debate are the ten innocent victims who were slaughtered 50 years ago. They are the people whom we in this House must put front and centre of the remaining interventions on this debate.

As we move forward to ensure proper justice is delivered, the Government must take a considered, firm and consistent position. It must ensure the discussion is not ended in a couple of weeks or months but underlines all our engagements with our British colleagues. I really want to underline that the announcement last week provides an opportunity for clarity on what actions will be taken as we go forward. The responsibilities of the Government are quite clear in this regard and it will be held to account by Opposition and Government Deputies equally. I conclude by remembering the ten innocent victims and urging that we always keep the sensitivities and grief of their family members at the heart of all our discussions.

I spoke to a woman from Belfast a few weeks ago about Ballymurphy. She told me that her mother always said that her brother went out that day and came home a totally different person and was lost to the family. He reacted to the state-sponsored violence and the subsequent cover-up of what happened at Ballymurphy and on Bloody Sunday a few months later in the only way he could, which was by taking up arms.

I was staggered over the past month or so by how few people to whom I spoke had heard about Ballymurphy. There are a number of reasons for that. Going back to section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, the political programming that was offered by journalists in this State led to a narrative that ultimately served no purpose at all. The people who went further than what was required in the Broadcasting Act silenced campaigners who were campaigning against injustice. Those campaigners were labelled as fellow travellers. The Special Branch followed them around, they were harassed and they lost their jobs. Even people from my party who were trade union representatives were not allowed to speak on television on behalf of their trade union. People think cancel culture is something that has only been happening recently. In fact, anyone who was supportive of people like the Birmingham Six and the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and Ballymurphy was, in effect, cancelled back in the 1970s and 1980s, whereas the leaders of the campaign to silence became establishment figures, columnists and programme controllers. If they are to be believed, they became Government advisers.

Fortunately, truth and justice have now been obtained by the families of the Birmingham Six and the victims of Bloody Sunday and Ballymurphy, but the other campaigns go on. The political coverage and whitewash that happened around that time and in the years leading up to Ballymurphy saw lies being told about weapons being stored in Catholic churches, making both the church and its lay and clerical members legitimate targets in the eyes of loyalists and the British army. Even to this day, journalists and newspaper executives are assumed to hold political views and affiliations based on where on the island they come from. We have seen recently that this continues. Campaigners and documentarians who sought to establish the truth were harassed viciously. It is hard to imagine that political advice was sought until recently from some of the people who engaged in this nonsense but apparently that is the case. Many media outlets may not admit it but there was a whitewash in the British legal system and there was a whitewash of silence in Ireland over Ballymurphy, Bloody Sunday and many others.

Issues with inquests in the British state are not confined solely to the Six Counties, as a recent report by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL, on the 26-county system demonstrates. The report documents the heartbreaking incidents where families have had to wait many years to find out what happened to their loved ones. What was done to the Ballymurphy families through malfeasance and contempt is being done to others through neglect bordering on contempt. This must be urgently addressed and the findings of the ICCL report must be implemented.

Go raibh maith agat, a Theachta.

I will finish on this. The names of people such as Fr. Hugh Mullan, surely a modern-day martyr, and all the others should inspire us to work towards peace on this island. It is only with justice that a lasting peace can be delivered. The campaign on the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, the campaign for Pat Finucane and the campaign for the truth about Rosemary Nelson go on, and the Government should act on those.

Cuirim fáilte ollmhór roimh an mbreithiúnas ón ionchoisne an tseachtain seo caite a d'aithin go raibh na daoine a maraíodh i mBaile uí Mhurchú go hiomlán neamhchiontach. While I wholeheartedly welcome the decision made by the inquest in the North that the people in Ballymurphy who were murdered by the British army were completely innocent, I am still absolutely shocked and angered by the fact that the British establishment allowed the lie to hang in the air for 50 years. In 1971, the British forces killed ten innocent people while imposing mass internment on the nationalist community in the North of Ireland. Following 100 witnesses and more than 100 days of evidence, last week's findings served to shed light on the brutalisation of innocent people by the forces of the British state in the North. I salute the resilience of the Ballymurphy families and their campaign. Our hearts break because so many of those family members passed away before they were able to see their families' names cleared by the inquest.

Among the ten people who lost their lives was a mother of eight, and what happened to Joan Connolly is especially harrowing. She was 44 years old when she was killed by the British army. She was searching for her daughter and in the gunfire she had to hide behind the gable end of a house. She witnessed Noel Phillips, who was only 20, get shot and, like anybody with a bit of humanitarian sense in them, she went to help. For her kindness she was shot by the British soldier. The bullet went through her eye and, according to a witness, took half her face off. She was shot again repeatedly by the British army and was left to bleed to death for six hours. I am very cautious about relating in such harrowing detail what people went through in those situations, but it is extremely important that people throughout Ireland understand the brutality that was meted out to the nationalist community by the British state that day.

We often think of the wrongs that happened at that time as being in the past but they are not just in the past. Immediately after those murders, the reputation of the men and women of Ballymurphy was defamed by the British state. It lied about those victims. It said they were gunmen and instigators of violence. In doing so, it wronged again those it had just murdered, and that wrong remained right up until last week.

I have raised the experience of the families of the Ballymurphy massacre over and over in the Dáil and in the media and I have to echo Deputy Daly's words: most of the time in this Chamber and in the establishment press I have felt there has not been enough support for those families. There is a hierarchy of victims for some in the Dáil. For some there was no political capital to be made from these families' campaigns. Having been murdered by the British army and defamed by the British state, and in many ways by some in the southern establishment, their deaths were discriminated against in a shocking way. Yesterday was the anniversary of the Dublin-Monaghan bombings. In that case we had a Garda investigation that was not properly carried out, we had a Fine Gael and Labour Government that in reality took little interest in what happened and we had, and have still, a British state that remained silent on the truth of what happened. The deputy leader of Aontú and Mid Ulster councillor, Denise Mullen, was four years old when she witnessed her father, an SDLP supporter and civil rights supporter at the time, being murdered by agents of the British state in front of her in her home. Justice and truth have been withheld from the majority of victims and survivors of the Glenanne gang too. As for the southern establishment's interest in victims in the North of Ireland, I have raised with three separate taoisigh the request that they meet with the victims of the Glenanne gang: first with Enda Kenny, who never replied to my request, second with Deputy Varadkar, who never met with the families, and third with the current Taoiseach. In fairness to the current Taoiseach, he has not been able to meet them because of Covid. However, I urge him and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is present, to grab that nettle and choose a date to meet those families now that the Covid threat is receding.

Now the Tories are talking about providing an amnesty to British soldiers who were involved in such crimes. Last week, the families of Ballymurphy got the truth and now the Tories want to prevent them from getting justice. If that happens, it will add another wrong to what happened to these families. Many in the South, especially revisionists, seek to portray the British as independent and objective in the conflict that happened in the North. Ballymurphy blows that idea out of the water. The British were equal combatants in the trouble in our country. Why are the British soldiers who killed those innocent victims on that day not in jail? The reason they are not is that the British state remains in combat with truth and justice to this very day. For as long as it prevents people from finding a pathway to justice, it is doing wrong by families such as those of the Ballymurphy massacre.

The Irish Government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement and the Stormont House Agreement. It has to step up to the plate. It is dealing with a very belligerent partner in those agreements. I believe the southern Government is a junior partner in those agreements at the moment. Our Government needs to step up to the plate, co-guarantee those international agreements and make sure that victims right throughout the North of Ireland, on all sides, have a pathway to the truth and justice for their families.

I am glad to have a couple of minutes to make a few points about the Ballymurphy massacre. It strikes me today - and I do not doubt the sincerity of anybody who has spoken, from the Taoiseach right through to the most recent speaker - that our collective ambivalence as an Oireachtas throughout many tragedies in the North of Ireland, elsewhere, is worth noting. What are we really doing about the various atrocities, from Ballymurphy through to Bloody Sunday, the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, Guildford, Birmingham and so on? When the passage of time dictates it, we will jump up and down, be indignant, demand apologies and seek redress, but at the time what do we do about it?

I am conscious that a number of years ago, on the say-so of the Brits, we here took it upon ourselves to expel Russian diplomats, perhaps rightly, because it was alleged a former spy had been murdered on British soil by Russian agents. At the time I asked whether we would ever take such steps in other instances. I asked at the time: what happens the next time children are killed in Israeli strikes? Of course, 61 children have been killed in Israeli strikes over the past week. I wonder whether we will wait 50 years as a State before we hold a debate in this House to condemn collectively the actions of the Israelis in not exercising due care in undertaking violent acts. That is worth reflecting on, as are the other issues that come before us here. How many protected disclosures sit uninvestigated? There are the mother and baby homes issue and so many others. They will be sat on for 50 years while we as a nation are happy - "we are all right down here, Jack" - and ambivalent to the atrocities of the North. In real terms, in trying to get the appropriate accountability, justice and redress for all victims of the conflict, particularly those families of Ballymurphy whom we are discussing today, what are we really doing about it? Is it a stiff letter to Prime Minister Johnson? What do our actions of diplomacy include in the context of seeking that? That is a point worth raising. The Minister for Foreign Affairs is in the room. We were happy and quick, perhaps rightly so, to expel Russian diplomats.

Let us see some action on Israel. In any war situation it is unacceptable for 61 children to die in a week. I hope the Minister can bring that to the Cabinet and we can come up with a suitable response of our own and lead the way, using our position on the United Nations Security Council as a small nation of peace, rather than waiting for the leads of other countries and the say-so of the Brits, the Americans or anyone else.

Obviously, I welcome the Americans' reaffirming their support for Stormont House Agreement and Good Friday Agreement. We need to hammer that home. In the interests of all victims on all sides, we also need to insist that under no circumstances should the British authorities press ahead with any sort of amnesty or clemency. Accountability, justice and redress must come long before any such matters are considered, if ever.

I welcome the opportunity to examine the report of the Ballymurphy inquest. I acknowledge the perseverance and dedication of the families of the victims in their long journey to establish the facts of what happened and to get justice. I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those victims killed between 9 and 11 August 1971. It is unacceptable that these families had to wait almost 50 years for the truth. One wonders if these killings had taken place in England, Scotland or Wales, whether successive British governments have acted sooner. This was a shameful episode. Innocent people were killed and their reputations were sullied. It was appalling and it must be acknowledged by the British state.

I welcome the Taoiseach's meeting with the British Prime Minister, Mr. Johnson, to underline the seriousness of the findings and to call for a meaningful apology to be extended to the families. The Taoiseach was right to highlight the need for transparency and truth on the atrocities that happened during the Troubles, including the Dublin and Monaghan bombings which took place 47 years ago yesterday. Thirty-four people died in the bombings and more than 300 were injured when four car bombs were detonated on 17 May 1974. Their families and friends deserve the truth, as do all victims of atrocities that took place during the Troubles. There must be a re-engagement by all parties to the Troubles to discover and tell the truth. The victims and their families must be the priority.

With the shared-island initiative, it is important for all of us to re-engage in cross-Border initiatives to ensure there is reconciliation on all sides. Obviously, as we have seen with Ballymurphy, it is important for victims to have the truth told. The names of innocent victims must be cleared of any wrongdoing.

On the morning of Monday, 9 August 1971, the security forces launched Operation Demetrius, the introduction of internment in the North. The deaths of ten innocent civilians occurred in the ensuing three days up to 11 August. Their friends and families have always known they were innocent, and now the world knows that they were indeed innocent.

I welcome the verdict of the inquiry even if I regret that it took so long to achieve it - too long. We know from the summary of findings of the Honourable Mrs. Justice Keegan, who presided as coroner over the inquests into the deaths, that the inadequacy of the original investigation was shocking. According to Mrs. Justice Keegan, not one statement was taken from the military in the area. The scene was not sealed and the bullets were not recovered. She went on to say that there had been an abject failing by the authorities to inquire into the death of innocent civilians on the streets and that this failure had hampered the coroner greatly. The coroner recorded in the strongest of terms that that was a striking feature of the case.

We must hope, pray and ensure that we never return to those days. However, we must also do that while working to ensure that the political institutions on this island are as strong as possible. We must all work together to unite rather than divide the communities on this island.

I end by remembering the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, the 47th anniversary of which occurred yesterday. We need truth on those events. There cannot be true healing for those families who are bereaved if there is no truth. The Taoiseach stated before Christmas that he would make inquiries with the British about the Belturbet bombing, but this does not seem to have happened. It is unfair on those people and certainly deepens the wounds of all families concerned if there is no follow-up. They cannot get justice without a proper process of investigation into that case.

I am delighted to have some time to speak on this matter this evening. Following the inquest into the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre, it is now being established beyond doubt that the victims that day, Fr. Hugh Mullan, Francis Quinn, Joan Connolly, Daniel Teggart, Noel Phillips, Joseph Murphy, Edward Doherty, Joseph Corr, John Laverty and John James McKerr, were innocent.

Things went on in Northern Ireland and we will never get a final peace if we cannot have honesty and reconciliation, and acceptance by the British government that barbaric acts happened there. There were many other events, including the killing of Aidan McAnespie in Aughnacloy, for which there was no proper investigation. There was a cock-and-bull story that a bullet ricocheted off the ground. It is totally unacceptable. He was being intimidated day in, day out, as were the people in Ballymurphy. It took that length of time.

The Taoiseach's meeting with the British Prime Minister last week was only window dressing, coming out with pious platitudes afterwards. I happened to be on a school trip to Dublin on the afternoon of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings; it was the most appalling experience. There has been cover-up in respect of the Omagh bomb. Detective Garda Sergeant White, who has now gone to his eternal reward - his mother, Mrs. Angela White, went shortly after him - did his best to stop the bomb going up. People knew that bomb was going to Omagh and it was not stopped. Michael Gallagher and the families of the Omagh bomb victims are striving hard for justice. They got many promises from Enda Kenny when he was leader of Fine Gael before he got into government about what he would do for them. When he got into government, the system just abandoned them. The system needs to be outed here and the cover-up needs to be stopped.

We need honesty and respect for human life and accept that where murder happened it should not have happened. At least people can grieve properly if they know that they have justice with people held accountable. There is no accountability in that system or the Dublin and Monaghan bombings and collusion there with MI5 and whatever else. It is outrageous. In an effort to go forward to the new Ireland, the shared Ireland, it is time that we have accountability, responsibility, honesty and openness.

On Tuesday, 11 May, there was finally some justice for the ten people murdered in the Ballymurphy massacre. Fifty years after the tragedy of August 1971, an inquest, led by the coroner, Mrs. Justice Siobhan Keegan, found that the ten people killed were entirely innocent. The inquest found that nine of the victims had been shot by the British army. However, due to the lack of investigation at the time into the tenth death, that of John McKerr, it was not possible to definitively rule who had shot him.

Nine men and one woman were killed in the massacre, the 44-year-old Joan Connolly was a mother of eight children. Fr. Hugh Mullan, a 38-year-old priest, was also among those killed, as was Francis Quinn, aged 44, who was shot when he went to help the priest.

These ten innocent victims were killed as part of operation Demetrius, which was internment without trial. The first day of operation Demetrius on 9 August 1971, approved by the British Government, involved mass arrests of more than 340 people from Catholic backgrounds. Ian Paisley was opposed to internment as he was concerned that some loyalists would be interned.

From 9 August 1971 until the end of that year, it is estimated that around 150 people were killed, with hundreds more injured. That is 150 dead in four months. The year 1972 was the worst year of the Troubles with almost 500 people killed.

With the British Government’s involvement in operation Demetrius, one would think a proper state apology would have been forthcoming following the vindication of the ten people’s innocence.

Last Friday, the Fianna Fáil Taoiseach met with the Tory Prime Minister on a number of issues. The Taoiseach said of the Ballymurphy verdict and his meeting with Boris Johnson: "...and I think the British Prime Minister, you know, is fully appraised of it. And I think will respond in his own way, in his own time." That is quite insulting, insulting to our Taoiseach and to the families of the Ballymurphy massacre, that the Taoiseach would even accept this from the British Prime Minister.

Why was a full and unreserved apology not delivered from the floor of Westminster, as David Cameron did after the Saville inquiry? If there had been a proper investigation in Ballymurphy we might never have had a Bloody Sunday at all.

Boris Johnson’s private apology for the Ballymurphy massacre was reportedly delivered over a call to Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill in the North. A letter sent to families is also not sufficient. John Teggart, son of Daniel Teggart, said on Thursday:

It's the manner of the apology, sending a letter two minutes before the secretary of state went live on TV. It's the timing.

For some 50 years these families have been fighting for justice and answers and the least the Prime Minister could do is offer an official, adequate, public apology. The untruths told about the ten victims were public at the time. Correcting the record therefore should also be acknowledged in a public way.

Further unnecessary upset was caused to the families and many, many others around the North with the ill-conceived talk of an amnesty for British soldiers’ actions during the Troubles. I see the Taoiseach apparently warned Johnson against such a move in their meeting last week but how strong was this warning? We may never really know. An amnesty cannot happen. Some families are only now getting some justice and answers. Many will never get any answers. Procedures must, however, be in place to allow people to look for justice and for criminal prosecutions, where appropriate.

I support the calls of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, ICCL, and the Committee for the Administration of Justice, CAJ, that we need assurances from the British Government that it will not seek to curtail further legacy inquests through its proposed Northern Ireland legacy Bill. In a joint briefing note, the ICCL and CAJ stated:

There is still a risk, in particular with inquests delivering truth recovery, that there will be a fresh UK attempt to curtail legacy inquests, despite the competence largely falling to the NI Department of Justice. It is essential that the Irish Government resists any attempts to curtail such inquests.

I wonder what sort of warning the Taoiseach gave. How strongly was it conveyed to the British Prime Minister that we will not accept any such an amnesty? The hurt, injustice and cover-ups are not just part of history. They are evident in everyday lives, families and communities. People continue to exploit tensions for their own political gains and we will watch with interest how the new DUP leader will also deal with things.

How many other families and communities are waiting for justice? We know well in this House about the Dublin and Monaghan bombing victims and how they are also being thwarted by the British. It is partly because the British have been allowed to present themselves as neutral in this conflict, which they never were. They were always an active participant and there might not have been a need for a peace process if the British had lived up to their role in the conflict. On that point we will probably never know.

I will finish by referring to where we have talked in recent days, and in fact in the past year or so, about the vital role that the European Union played in ensuring peace, the Good Friday Agreement and such matters. I have heard no comment, however, from the European Union on the Ballymurphy inquests and what is happening there. This is interesting and perhaps the rewriting of history will happen on this issue also.

I commend the families and communities who never gave up looking for truth, justice and answers for their lost and loved ones and I offer my full solidarity to them all.

I begin by joining with the Taoiseach and all of my colleagues in conveying our condolences to the Ballymurphy families for the terrible events that took their loved ones from them and in extending our sympathy and solidarity for the nearly 50 years that they have had to spend fighting to bring truth to those events. That is a lifetime of struggle.

I was honoured to meet the families on several occasions in recent years as the Government worked with them to support their long campaign. To hear the coroner’s verdict announced last week and indeed for the Taoiseach to read the details of those findings into the record of this House today is powerful. It was a moment of complete vindication, of truth at last. It is also testament to the courage and determination of the Ballymurphy families and their unyielding sense of justice. As the Taoiseach noted, the Government stands with the families. Appropriate due process should follow from the coroner’s findings and we will continue to support them as they consider their next steps. The deaths at Ballymurphy were part of the tragic legacy of the Troubles which saw the loss of over 3,500 lives from all communities. The Government is committed to helping all those who lost loved ones during the Troubles and who seek truth and justice to find it. That, of course, goes for Ballymurphy families and for Kingsmill families. That is why we passed the Criminal Justice (International Co-Operation) Act to facilitate that inquest and others like it. It goes for the Dublin and Monaghan families who yesterday marked the 47th anniversary of that terrible day of loss. That goes for the Birmingham families who I was privileged to meet a little over a year ago. That goes for all families. Every family bereaved in the conflict must have access to an effective investigation and to a process of truth and justice, regardless of the perpetrator.

The Stormont House Agreement was reached between the two Governments and the political parties in Northern Ireland in 2014 after a long and intense period of negotiation, with the exception of the UUP which did not support it at the time. It set out a path forward and a balanced framework which encompassed the core principles of truth, justice and reconciliation. The agreement includes an historical investigation unit to take forward independent investigations into outstanding Troubles-related deaths and an international independent commission for information recovery to enable victims’ families to seek and receive information about the circumstances of the deaths of their loved ones where that information cannot be used in courts. It includes an oral history archive to allow all of the different experiences of the Troubles to be shared and an implementation and reconciliation group to look at the themes and patterns of the conflict and support initiatives that can contribute to reconciliation and a fuller understanding of the past.

The two Governments followed up the Stormont House Agreement with a bilateral international agreement to allow the establishment of its information recovery body. At the time of the New Decade, New Approach Agreement in January of last year, the British Government once again committed to legislating for the Stormont House Agreement.

In March of last year, the British Government issued a written ministerial statement that proposed to depart significantly from the Stormont House Agreement. Since then I have spoken regularly to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to express our strong concerns and to reiterate the importance of the collective approach consistent with the Stormont House Agreement and one which, crucially, is compliant with our international human rights obligations. I reaffirmed those critical principles to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when we met the week before last in Dublin and strongly advised him against any unilateral action on these very sensitive issues. Reports of possible plans to introduce a statute of limitation have, of course, caused significant upset, shock and concern, including for the Ballymurphy families who have spoken out on this issue.

In my time as Minister for Foreign Affairs I have met many victims and survivors from both communities. I know how hurt they are by the idea of being denied a route to pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones as provided by the Stormont House Agreement. There is a need to take a comprehensive view of how to achieve progress and reconciliation for society as a whole but the needs of victims and families must be at the heart of that process. We have strongly communicated our position on this issue to the British Government.

We will continue to do so and we will continue to call in the clearest terms for there to be no unilateral action. The Government remains ready to engage and work with the British Government and, of course, the parties to the Northern Ireland Executive with a view to reaffirming a collective approach that is consistent with the Stormont House Agreement. Of course, we want to continue to work with victims and their families at the centre of that process as well.

The history of the peace process has taught us that real and lasting progress is made when we work together, even on the most difficult and sensitive of issues. We know the Stormont House Agreement is not perfect. I am not sure there can be a perfect solution to such a complicated and sensitive problem as how to address the legacy of our past in a way that meets the needs of all families and our communities as best we can. However, it gives us a solid framework and an agreed path forward and we need to take it together.

The process of building a lasting peace and deeper reconciliation across all communities is difficult, painful and slow, but it is made easier when we have a foundation on which we can have confidence based on principles to which we can always turn, such as a clear map when the path forward seems too difficult or unclear, as well as truth, justice, rule of law and empathy with one another's pain. Those values bring us together and, as the Taoiseach stated, that unity was so clear last week as leaders and citizens from all communities and all political parties came out to welcome the findings of the Ballymurphy inquest. The findings of Mrs. Justice Keegan last week laid out a set of truths. All ten people who were killed were wholly innocent. All ten were killed without justification. I hope that with the telling of those truths and the bringing to light of the immense wrong that was done, a burden begins to lift. We will keep working in support of all those seeking truth and justice so that more burdens carried on the shoulders of other families and communities for far too long can be lifted also.