Northern Ireland

Villiers rules out La Mon and Ballymurphy reviews

La Mon bomb Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Twelve people were killed in the La Mon bomb in 1978

Calls for independent reviews into two incidents in the Troubles in which 23 people died have been ruled out by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Ms Villiers sent letters to relatives of the 12 people killed in the La Mon bombing in 1978 and relatives of 11 people who died in Ballymurphy in 1971.

The secretary of state said she did not believe reviews would uncover evidence not already in the public domain.

She said she knew this was not what the families wanted to hear.

Ten people were shot dead by the parachute regiment in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, in August 1971, while an 11th person died of a heart attack after allegedly confronting soldiers.

Twelve members of the Irish Collie Club were killed in the La Mon House Hotel in 1978 in an IRA firebomb attack.

Relatives wanted a review of the police investigation into the bombing.

Regarding her statement about Ballymurphy, Ms Villiers said: "In reaching this decision, I have sought to balance the strong and clear views of the families with the need to ensure that existing legal mechanisms can continue to carry out their functions without being impeded by an additional process."

Speaking about La Mon she said: "I understand that this is not the decision they were hoping for, but I do not believe that an independent review would reveal new evidence or reach a different conclusion from the investigations that have already taken place."

'Slap in the face'

Andrea Nelson was 14 when her parents Paul and Dorothy were murdered in the La Mon bomb.

She said she wanted justice for them.

"Ideally it would be good if people could be brought to court in Northern Ireland - why don't we have the justice that we deserve?" she said.

"That might not be possible, there might not be the level of evidence, but to simply say there's not going to be that further investigation is a slap in the face for victims of that night.

"To say that we're not important enough to have that level of scrutiny that other families have had from other atrocities, just makes us believe that we are the forgotten victims, the La Mon victims, and that we've simply been put in the 'far too difficult to do box'."

'Shocked and outraged'

In a statement, the Ballymurphy families said they were "shocked and outraged" at the government's response.

"We have led our campaign for truth and justice in a dignified but determined manner and deserve the opportunity to have the innocence of our loved ones proven," they said.

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Media captionFamilies said they were "shocked and outraged" at the government's response

"We feel that the Conservative-led British government is treating us in a disrespectful and shameful manner.

Legal challenge

"We have demonstrated flexibility in that our proposed approach is not a 'costly and lengthy public inquiry'. It is a tried, tested and cost effective model."

The families said that they may legally challenge Ms Villiers decision.

The families wanted a seven-member panel to examine all documents and papers.

They wanted it to be modelled on the one that examined the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Then, 96 people lost their lives during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.

They proposed that it would be chaired by former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and funded by the British and Irish governments.

Image caption Soldiers clearing up in the aftermath of the Ballymurphy killings

'Way forward'

Ivan Lewis, shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, said: "The Ballymurphy families have waited too long to learn the truth about the killing of their loved ones and they will be disappointed by Theresa Villiers decision. They have a right to the truth and justice which has been denied to them for too long."

Mr Lewis said he would be meeting with the families in the weeks ahead to "consider the best way forward".

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny met the Ballymurphy families in Dublin in January and said he was "disappointed" that Ms Villiers had turned down their request.

"I told the families that the government supported their case, and that I intend to visit Ballymurphy and meet with the families there during a future visit to Belfast," he said.

"Following our meeting in January, I wrote to Prime Minister Cameron asking that the families' request for a limited review be granted. I also raised the matter with him at our meeting in London on 11 March.

"Consequently, I am disappointed with today's news, which I know will come as a blow to the families."

Members of the Parachute Regiment claimed they opened fire after being shot at by republicans during Operation Demetrius, when people suspected of paramilitary activity were interned.

A Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight were among those killed over a three-day period.

After an application from the families the attorney general directed the coroner to re-open inquests into the deaths in November 2011.

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