Sinn Féin west Belfast MP Gerry Adams this morning hosted a press conference to highlight the demand for truth and justice by the families of those killed in Ballymurphy and Springhill almost 40 years ago.
Mr. Adams said: “On Tuesday the Bloody Sunday families finally achieved truth for themselves and their loved ones.
The British Prime Minister in apologising for the actions of the Paras stated that “Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service the British Army gave in Northern Ireland from 1969-2007.”
That is wrong.
Bloody Sunday is the defining story of the British Army in Ireland.
The British Army, British Military Intelligence, and a variety of British intelligence agencies, like the Military Reaction Force and the Force Reconnaissance Unit, along with the UDR and RUC, were directly responsible for 400 deaths in disputed circumstances.
Through collusion and sectarian murders they were responsible for hundreds more.
The Ballymurphy and the Springhill Massacres are examples of this and in these cases, as in so many others, the families still do not have truth.
In Ballymurphy six months before Bloody Sunday, we have another striking example of the brutality with which the Paras acted and how the British system then connived in a cover-up.
In the 36 hours after the introduction of internment in August 1971 eleven people - ten men, including a local priest and a mother of eight children - were killed by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment in the Ballymurphy area.
The accounts of how their loved ones died the bear a striking similarity to the stories told by the Derry families and now vindicated by the Saville report..
Paratroopers also killed others in Belfast in the same period, including a 14 year old boy in Lenadoon, a 17 year old in the Clonard area, a student teacher from Downpatrick outside St. Comgalls in Divis Street and Robert McKinnie and Robert Johnstone from the Shankill.
Six months after Bloody Sunday, on 9 July 1972, they shot dead five people in Springhill.
Among the dead was the second Catholic priest to be killed in greater Ballymurphy. He was administering the Last Rites to victims when he himself was cut down.
Of the four others killed, three were teenagers and the last was a father of six children who was with the local priest.
On 9 March 1973 the Parachute Regiment arrived for duty in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast. Within weeks they had shot and killed 5 people, one a 12-year-old boy.
In South Armagh a 12 year old schoolgirl was shot dead on 14 August 1976.
None of those killed had any connection to any armed group. They were all innocent civilians.
All of these families deserve the full support and encouragement of the community, and of the Irish government, in their efforts to secure an independent international investigation in these deaths.
We will be meeting the British secretary of State about these matters.
The British government in acknowledging the wrong done in Derry must acknowledge the wrong done in Ballymurphy and elsewhere and to these families. It must make a public apology for what it and its armed forces did.