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'Innocent' Ballymurphy Massacre inquest hears 10 shot by British Army were 'unconnected to paramilitaries’

The verdicts come after a long campaign by relatives of those killed in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast between August 9-11 1971.

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INNOCENT: Ten of the 11 Ballymurphy victims (top, from left) Joseph Corr, Danny Taggart, Eddie Doherty, Father Hugh Mullen, Frank Quinn and (above, from left) Paddy McCarthy, John McKerr, Noel Philips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy

INNOCENT: Ten of the 11 Ballymurphy victims (top, from left) Joseph Corr, Danny Taggart, Eddie Doherty, Father Hugh Mullen, Frank Quinn and (above, from left) Paddy McCarthy, John McKerr, Noel Philips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy

Rita Bonner as the Ballymurphy families arrive at the ICC Waterfront Hall in Belfast on May 11, 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Rita Bonner as the Ballymurphy families arrive at the ICC Waterfront Hall in Belfast on May 11, 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

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INNOCENT: Ten of the 11 Ballymurphy victims (top, from left) Joseph Corr, Danny Taggart, Eddie Doherty, Father Hugh Mullen, Frank Quinn and (above, from left) Paddy McCarthy, John McKerr, Noel Philips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy

Ten people killed by the British Army during disorder in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast in August 1971 were innocent civilians, a coroner has ruled today.

None of those killed were members of a paramilitary organisation, had a weapon or posed a threat and all but one were killed by the British Army with unjustified force, the inquest was told.

Relatives of the deceased clapped as Coroner Mrs Justice Keegan read out her judgments at the International Convention Centre in Belfast on Tuesday.

The verdicts come after a long campaign by relatives of those killed in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast between August 9-11 1971.

Among those killed were a local Catholic priest and a mother of eight.

Ten fresh inquests were heard in terms of the five incidents in which they occurred.

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Rita Bonner as the Ballymurphy families arrive at the ICC Waterfront Hall in Belfast on May 11, 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Rita Bonner as the Ballymurphy families arrive at the ICC Waterfront Hall in Belfast on May 11, 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Rita Bonner as the Ballymurphy families arrive at the ICC Waterfront Hall in Belfast on May 11, 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Parish priest Father Hugh Mullan, 38, and Frank Quinn, 19, were shot in the Springfield Park area of Ballymurphy at around 9pm on August 9.

Around the same time, outside an Army barracks at the Henry Taggart Hall in Divismore Park, Noel Philips, 19, Joseph Murphy, 41, Joan Connolly, 44, and Daniel Teggart, 44, were fatally wounded by gunfire.

The following day, Eddie Doherty, 31, died after being shot in the Whiterock Road as he came across an encounter between soldiers and protesters who had erected a barricade across the road.

In the fourth incident, on the third day of shooting, Joseph Corr, 43, and John Laverty, 20, were shot in the Whiterock Road area in the early hours of the morning. Mr Corr died from his injuries 16 days later.

And later that morning former soldier John McKerr, 49, was shot later in Westrock Drive, close to Corpus Christi Church as he took a break from maintenance work. He died from his injuries on August 20.

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Mrs Justice Keegan described the inquests as the longest running to date in Northern Ireland.

While outlining the context in which the deaths happened, in terms of the start of what has become known as the Troubles and the introduction of the policy of internment without trial on August 9, she said she assessed each incident on its own facts.

The standard of proof used was on balance of probability.

She noted that, 50 years on, the deaths remain “stark” for the families.

(Additional reporting: PA)

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