A Northern Ireland judge ruled on Tuesday that British soldiers were responsible for the deaths of nine of ten innocent civilians in 1971 during the first violence in west Belfast, known as “the unrest”.
High Court Judge Siobhan Keegan has delivered the findings of an investigation into the murders of these individuals amid clashes between the British military and separatist protesters.
According to The Associated Press, Keegan ruled that the 10 people, including a mother of eight, a Catholic priest and a World War II veteran, were not involved in any type of paramilitary activity when they were shot.
Justice ruled that the 10 victims of the shootings occurred from August 9 to 9. On September 11, 1971, were “completely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question,” the AP reported.
The priest who was killed, 38 Father Hugh Mullan was helping an injured person while waving a white object before being shot twice in the back by soldiers, Keegan found in his investigation, 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 dead by British forces, she said there was not enough evidence to definitively determine who fired the shots that killed one of the individuals .
The families of the victims, who have long maintained the innocence of family members, erupted into applause at the news of Keegan’s decision.
Mullan’s brother Patsy said at a press conference on Tuesday after the ruling: “Our brother was killed by the British military and then they lied about it to cover up their injustice.”
“After 50 years, the truth that we have always known has finally been told,” he added, according to Reuters.
In 1972, a one-day series of inquiries returned “open verdicts” for each of the murders, 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 Keegan’s investigative order in 2011.
The investigation included more than a hundred days of testimony held from 2018 to 2020.
Keegan’s move comes as Dublin and many residents of Belfast objected to new legislation proposed by the UK government that would provide increased protection for former soldiers who served in Northern Ireland.