Coroner rules victims in 1971 Belfast shooting were innocent

LONDON — A coroner in Northern Ireland has ruled that 10 people killed during a military operation in west Belfast 50 years ago were “entirely innocent’’ and soldiers were responsible for nine of their deaths.

Family members applauded as coroner Siobhan Keegan delivered her findings in the inquest into the deaths, which occurred during three days of unrest in August 1971. The shootings took place in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast during the sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland that became known as The Troubles.

Though she acknowledged the times were chaotic, Keegan ruled that none of the victims had been engaged in paramilitary activity at the time they were shot. The victims included a mother of eight, a Catholic priest and a World War II veteran.

The inquest was ordered in 2011 following a campaign by the victims’ families. It ultimately heard more than 100 days of testimony during hearings that stretched from November 2018 to March 2020.

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