AOH and IAUC Welcome Ballymurphy Verdict

The AOH and IAUC have both welcomed the Ballymurphy Inquest verdict which was welcomed and celebrated in Ballymurphy itself

By Irish Echo Staff

Leading Irish American organizations, the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish American Unity Conference, have praised the coroner's verdict with regard to the 1971 Ballymurphy Massacre.

AOH National President Daniel O'Connell, in a statement said: "After 18,171 days, almost half a century, today's verdict by Mrs. Justice Keegan not only confirmed that the ten victims of Britain's Ballymurphy Massacre were totally innocent but indicts the British who branded them guilty.

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"The verdict clearly demonstrates Britain's real reason for announcing plans for a soldiers' amnesty or cut-off of historical investigations because the crown wants to bury the truth along with its victims.

"In the release of today's coroner report on Ballymurphy, Mrs. Justice Keegan delivered her finding that all the victims were unarmed and entirely innocent. Justice Keegan's report confirms that the events in Ballymurphy were the textbook definition of a massacre.

"The verdict by Mrs. Justice Keegan amply demonstrates Britain's real motivation for announcing plans for a soldiers amnesty: the planting of evidence on the bodies of innocent victims, of collusion between the British Soldiers in hampering the investigation and inquest, of substantial failures and violations by the British Government under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

"It should not be forgotten that five months later that members of the same regiment, and highly likely the same soldiers, were involved in the massacre of Bloody Sunday, the seminal moment of the conflict known as 'The Troubles.' A prior British court had found that the fourteen men killed during Bloody Sunday were also entirely innocent and documented the same egregious pattern of conspiracy and collusion by the British Army and Government to suppress the truth at the price of the victims and their families. The Ancient Order of Hibernians cannot help but wonder how many lives could have been saved in 'the Troubles' if Britain had acted responsibly and with justice at Ballymurphy?

"The AOH commends the courage of Mrs. Justice Keegan in delivering her verdict. To the families of the Ballymurphy victims, we salute your strength, faithfulness, and resilience as you fought a fight for justice for your relatives, a justice that should have been theirs as a birthright without the need of a half-century campaign. The AOH has and will continue to stand with you.

"At the same time, the AOH cannot help but note that as Mrs. Justice Keegan was delivering her verdict, simultaneously, the Queen's speech signaled the British Government's renewed attempts to evade accountability for its acts in the north of Ireland by announcing plans to legislate an amnesty for its soldiers and to unilaterally break its Stormont House Agreement pledge of a Historical Investigations Unit.

"Having delayed justice for over half a century, the current British Government amnesty now seeks to deny it. To do so, they are cynically taking the scoundrel's last refuge in patriotism by representing the prosecution of murderers as the persecutions of aging British soldiers while ignoring that young children who lost mothers, fathers, and brothers have themselves become grandparents while pursuing justice for their loved ones. It is hard to buy the specious arguments of the British Government that the reaching of old age by the perpetrators of murder should be rewarded by prosecutors similarly to the Queen sending a telegram to a couple on their Diamond Anniversary.

"Morally, the United States cannot ignore human rights violations and the creation of a class above the law by Britain when similar acts have brought condemnation and sanction when perpetrated by an African or Asian state. The United States must not participate in what former Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Séan Ó hUigínn described as Britain's 'Irish anomaly.... Something that would be taken very seriously in another context can be disregarded if it comes with an Irish label.' The United States can not let the mythos of a 'Special Relationship' turn it into an accomplice in injustice."

The Irish American Unity Conference also welcomed the verdict.

Said the IAUC in a statement: "The verdict vindicates the grieving families who have been campaigning for decades to clear the names and reputations of their parents and grandparents who were brutally murdered in what is known as The Ballymurphy Massacre.

"The IIAUC first hosted representatives of the Ballymurphy families at a forum and fundraiser in Washington in December, 2010, helping to kick off the U.S. arm of the Ballymurphy Campaign. The families returned to Washington three months later in March 2011 to testify before the Helsinki Commission.

"Representatives of the families have returned to Washington and New York on numerous occasions in the intervening time to testify before Congress and speak about the pain suffered by the relatives as compounded by British lies about their loved ones.

"Today's verdict was possible only because of their long, determined, and difficult campaign. In light of Justice Keegan's findings, the IAUC calls on the British government to promptly correct its official line of propaganda, accept the coroner's verdict, and issue an unconditional apology to the families for their suffering."