Solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh with members of the bereaved families outside Stormont today.Belfast Media Group photo.

On Monday they walked out. Today, they sued.

Members of the Ballymurphy Families, joined by members of other bereaved families, announced today that they would be suing both the British government and Stormont ministers.

The move has been prompted by what the families say is the continued failure by authorities to fund Troubles-related inquests, not least those into the deaths of eleven people in the 1971 “Ballymurphy Massacre.”

The amount that would be required to fund inquests is in the region of £10 million ($12.9 million).

A statement from the Belfast-based law firm, Ó Muirigh Solicitors, said it represented 33 families in relation to outstanding legacy inquests.

Those families were gathering at Stormont today to “protest against the failure of the British Government to comply with its international human rights obligations with respect to legacy inquests,” solicitor Padraig Ó Muirigh said.

The families are both nationalist and unionist in terms of political background, their prolonged grief over the loss of loved ones to violence being common ground.

Read more: Ballymurphy Massacre families walk out of meeting with NI Secretary of State

Their representatives, according to a report in the Irish News, hand-delivered notice of the challenge to the offices of Secretary of State James Brokenshire at Stormont House, which is distinct from nearby Stormont Castle

Similar letters were also delivered to the offices of First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and to Stormont's Department of Justice.

About fifty inquests are pending but stalled. They relate to almost a hundred deaths, some of them going back four decades.

On Monday, members of the Ballymurphy Families group walked out of a meeting with Secretary of State 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.”

Today, those same families took a first step towards walking into court.

Read more: James Brokenshire appointed British Government’s Northern Ireland Secretary


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