British soldiers killed innocent people in Northern Ireland in 1971, inquiry finds

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A judge in Northern Ireland ruled Tuesday that British soldiers were responsible for the deaths of nine of 10 innocent civilians in 1971 during early violence in west Belfast that became known as “The Troubles.” 

High Court Justice Siobhan Keegan delivered findings from an inquiry into the killings of the individuals amid confrontations between the British Army and separatist protesters. 

According to The Associated Press, Keegan ruled that the 10 individuals, including a mother of eight, a Catholic priest and a World War II veteran, were not participating in any type of paramilitary activity when they were shot. 

The justice ruled that the 10 victims in the shootings that occurred from Aug. 9-Aug. 11, 1971, were “entirely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question,” the AP reported. 

The priest who was killed, 38-year-old Father Hugh Mullan, was helping an injured person while waving a white object before he was shot twice in the back by soldiers, Keegan found in her inquiry, Reuters noted. 

Francis Quinn, 19, was also killed in the same incident while accompanying Mullan. 

While Keegan ruled that nine of the 10 people were shot by British forces, she said there was not enough evidence to definitively determine who fired the shots that killed one of the individuals. 

Families of the victims, who have long maintained the innocence of their family members, erupted into applause upon the announcement of Keegan’s ruling. 

Mullan’s brother, Patsy, said at a news conference Tuesday after the ruling, “Our brother was killed by the British Army and then they lied about it to cover up their injustice.” 

“After 50 years the truth we always knew has finally been told,” he added, according to Reuters.  

In 1972, a series of one-day inquests returned “open verdicts” for each of the killings, and included suggestions that the victims were responsible for their own deaths, according to the AP. 

A campaign organized by the victim’s families led to the order of Keegan’s investigation in 2011. 

The inquest included more than a hundred days of testimony held from 2018 to 2020. 

Keegan’s ruling comes as Dublin and many in Belfast have opposed newly proposed legislation from the British government that would provide increased protections to former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.

Tags Belfast Dublin Northern Ireland Reuters separatists The Associated Press The Troubles United Kingdom.

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