A call for an independent re-examination of a British Army operation that left 11 people dead in west Belfast more than 40 years ago has been rejected.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers had been asked to establish a review panel to assess the evidence related to an episode in 1971 that bereaved relatives refer to as the Ballymurphy massacre.

But Ms Villiers today informed the families that the British government had decided not to set up a review, claiming it would not serve the public interest.

Ten people died after being shot by soldiers over three days of gunfire in August 1971, among them a Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight.

Another man died of a heart attack following an alleged violent confrontation with the troops.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who met the Ballymurphy families in Dublin in January, said he was "disappointed to learn of this decision", which he said would come as a blow to the families. 

In a statement, he said he had raised the request with British Prime Minister David Cameron recently.

Mr Kenny added: "Notwithstanding this setback, I hope that it will still be possible to find a way for the families to get the truth and to vindicate fully the good names of their loved ones." 

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said he spoke to Ms Villiers following her announcement.

He said he made it clear the Government is disappointed by the decision, adding: "The families have been waiting 43 years for an independent account of what happened to their loved ones. This is too long.

"The British Government and the Irish Government are agreed about the importance of addressing the needs of all victims.

"This means that incidents such as Ballymurphy and other cases of deaths where state forces were, or may have been, involved need to be dealt with in a way and within a timescale that meets international human rights standards."

As with Bloody Sunday in Derry six months later, members of the Parachute Regiment were involved in the fatal operation in Ballymurphy.

A new inquest into the ten deaths caused by gunfire was ordered by Northern Ireland's Attorney General John Larkin QC in 2011.

The families have also long campaigned for a review panel to be set up by the government.

They wanted the inquiry modelled on the one that re-examined the Hillsborough football stadium disaster.

They wanted the panel to be chaired by former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

The shootings took place as the British army moved into republican strongholds in west Belfast to arrest IRA suspects in the wake of the introduction by the Stormont administration of the controversial policy of internment without trial.

Soldiers claimed they had come under attack and had returned fire.

But relatives have demanded an acknowledgement that their loved ones were wrongfully killed.