Northern Ireland veteran faces prosecution over Ballymurphy deaths

A former paratrooper faces prosecution over the Ballymurphy “massacre” after a coroner ruled yesterday that 10 “entirely innocent” victims were shot dead by the British Army in Belfast almost 50 years ago. A judge presiding over the inquest concluded that the soldier – who can be identified only as M3 – killed Edward Doherty, a builder, during three days of violence in August 1971. The ruling came on the day the Government promised it would introduce legislation to protect veterans of the Northern Ireland conflict from being dragged to court. The commitment made in the Queen’s Speech was immediately questioned by Johnny Mercer, the former veterans’ minister, who was sacked before he could resign, who said: “I just cannot be part of an administration that is going to promise these people things and then not make almost any effort to deliver on them.” Theresa May also expressed her doubt over the Government’s ability to introduce a statute of limitations for soldiers that did not give equivalent protection for terrorists. The shootings in the Republican stronghold of Ballymurphy occurred during an operation to arrest and detain suspected members of the IRA, immediately following the introduction of internment. Two years after the inquest began in 2018, Mrs Justice Keegan concluded all the victims – including a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight – were “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing on the day in question” and that the deaths between August 9 and August 11 1971 were “unjustified”. She added: “The Army had a duty to protect lives and minimise harm, and the use of force was clearly disproportionate.”