Members of the Ballymurphy Families. John Teggart is third from left.DailyIrish

Members of the Ballymurphy Families group have walked out of a meeting with new Northern Ireland Secretary of State, James Brokenshire.

“How many more secretaries of state do families have to meet before they get justice for their loved ones?” the group said in a statement following the walkout.

“It was their first meeting since he (Brokenshire) became the Secretary of State and families were hopeful that he would advance their inquests,” the group’s statement said.

 The statement added: “Families gave an emotional account of what happened to their loved ones in August 1971 after which families asked him directly to intervene and provide funding and resources to allow their inquests to resume.

“Unfortunately, Brokenshire conformed to type and like his predecessors referred the matter back to the Stormont Executive. 

“Families argued that the responsibility for resourcing the inquests rests solely with the British government as they were responsible.

“Families took the opportunity to remind the Secretary of State that the British government have a legal obligation under the European Convention of Human Rights to investigate crimes of state violence in a proper, prompt, independent and transparent fashion.

“But despite emotional pleas by families for him to release funding as requested by the Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Brokenshire refused to do so. 

“Families were so angered by his intransigence they……walked out ending the meeting after 45 minutes.”

Speaking afterward, the group’s spokesman, John Teggart said: “It was Brokenshire's first meeting with the families since he took over in the post from Theresa Villiers.

Mr. Teggart, whose father was among ten people shot dead in August 1971, said that the families were "disappointed" by the minister's attitude.

"It was a terrible meeting,” he said.

"James Brokenshire refused to answer many of our questions and it was just going round and round in circles.

"It was just the same old, same old. The families poured their hearts out about what had happened to their late relatives and were basically pleading for him to release the funding, but it was going nowhere.

"We explained that there is a wide range of families waiting for these inquests and the inquests don't need litigation. Lord Justice Weir said in January our inquest is ready to and can be started within the year.

Mr. Teggart pointed an accusing finger at the Democratic Unionist Party as “representative from the other six parties were at meeting supporting the families.”

He said the DUP was blocking the funding from going through the Executive.

Briege Voyle, whose mother was Joan Connolly was fatally shot four times said: "What do we have to do for these people to see sense?

“We need this funding released right away.

“Campaigners Mary Murphy and Joe Corr have died in the past few weeks. We need our inquests which were granted in 2011 started now, not just for us, but for all the ninety five families.

“James Brokenshire needs to make that decision now.”

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SDLP West Belfast MLA, Alex Attwood, said that the families were right to be angry at the failure to release funds for inquests.

Attwood said: "The Ballymurphy Massacre families walked out of the meeting with the Secretary of State today and I left with them. They are right to be angry and right to let the Secretary of State know of their anger in unambiguous terms.

"The Secretary of State has been meeting with victims and survivors. One of the outcomes should be that the London government changes for the better its approach to legacy issues.

"Today, the Ballymurphy families heard that despite meeting victims and survivors, the London government and the Secretary of State have yet to demonstrate change in their thinking.

“They gave the families no hope that inquest funds – which the Lord Chief Justice has asked for time and time again – will be released now.

"It is also of concern that the Secretary of State is giving one party – in this case the DUP – a veto on a legacy issue. Victims and survivors, their grief and their needs, should not be subject to a shallow veto.

"If the DUP can veto funding for inquests, they or others could try to do so again and attempt to veto other proposals to achieve truth, justice and accountability. Where would we be then?

"This cannot be allowed to happen.

“The Secretary of State must show that he hears the calls of victims and survivors, including the Ballymurphy Massacre families, and will answer those calls.”


This story first appeared in the Irish Echo. For more great articles, visit their website here.