The decision of the Coroner Ms Siobhán Keegan to declare that the ten people killed “were entirely innocent of any wrongdoings on the day in question” is a welcome and important victory for the families of those murdered by the British Army in Ballymurphy, Belfast, in 1971.
This victory for the families and their supporters is testimony to their unshakable certainty, held for fifty years, that their loved ones were completely innocent, and that they had been murdered by the British Army.
The coroner’s verdict once again brings out into the open the role of the British state forces in the death of many hundreds of innocent people as well as the killing of countless political opponents. These killings were carried out directly by the British Army and its surrogate forces, the RUC and the UDR. Moreover, the British directed and controlled loyalist terror groups, guiding their killing operations.
The coroner’s verdict once again exposed the British state’s false claim that they have been honest brokers in the Six Counties, that the deployment of British armed forces was to protect the nationalist community from the actions of the armed machinery of the Orange state. In reality, they were sent to shore up and secure Britain’s political and military interests in that part of Ireland that they continue to control directly.
It is clear that the British government and the British state will do what is necessary to protect those who carried out the orders handed down as part of the British strategy of suppression of all those who challenged their control and rule. The British state was not, and is not, a neutral referee keeping two “warring tribes” apart. They created the sectarian entity a century ago. They funded it and secured it, and continue to do so.
There are many more cases like the Ballymurphy Ten. The British state killings should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet, nor should there be a moratorium on the investigation of historical crimes. The Irish state stood by over five decades ago. It needs to be held to account and forced to stand with all the families who have suffered at the hands of the British state and its unionist puppets. It has a duty to stand up for the truth, to secure justice for all the victims. The British cannot and should not be let off the hook for their numerous killings.
There is a lesson in this for all who believe in securing a united, independent, and sovereign Ireland: Britain is not neutral, nor is it a benign force. It is the colonial overseeing power in the six counties.