The Ballymurphy victims' families have received a letter from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which he expresses his personal sorrow for the "terrible hurt that has been caused" by the deaths of 10 innocent civilians 50 years ago.

In his letter Mr Johnson said: "I unequivocally accept the findings of the coroner.

"Those who died over that terrible period were innocent of any wrongdoing. The events at Ballymurphy should never have happened.

"You should never have had to experience such grief at the loss of your loved ones and such distress in your subsequent quest for truth.

"The duty of the State is to hold itself to the highest standard and that requires us to recognise the hurt and agony caused when we fall short of those standards.

"For what happened on those terrible few days in Ballymurphy, and for what the families have gone through since you began your brave and dignified campaign almost five decades ago, I am truly sorry.

"I recognise that no words of apology can make up for the lasting pain that you have endured. Thank you for the dignity and strength you have shown."

Reacting to the letter of apology, John Teggart, whose father Danny was shot at Ballymurphy in 1971 said that the feeling of the families is "anger".

The Ballymurphy families met this lunchtime to discuss the letter and held a meeting with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Earlier, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis had told the House of Commons that Mr Johnson would write to the families, while he himself made a public apology to them.

Mr Lewis said he wanted to put on the record the British government's acknowledgement of the "terrible hurt" caused.

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Mr Johnson yesterday apologised to Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers.

Mr Lewis said the government was "truly sorry" for the events in Ballymurphy 50 years ago in which 10 innocent people were killed.

Before the House of Commons, Mr Lewis read out the names of all 10 victims who were killed in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast in August 1971.

He said he wanted to pay tribute to the "great patience" of the victims' families during a "determined campaign".

Mr Lewis said that those who died were "entirely innocent" and the events in Ballymurphy "should never have happened".

He said they should not have had to wait nearly five decades for the outcome of the inquest this week or been compelled to relive that time.

On Tuesday, an inquest found that all 10 victims shot and killed in the Ballymurphy area of West Belfast in August 1971 were "entirely innocent" and their killings had been unjustified.

A coroner found that nine of the 10 victims had been shot by British Army soldiers.

The 10 people who died in Ballymurphy in August 1971; (Top L-R) Joe Corr, Daniel Teggart, Edward Doherty, Fr Hugh Mullan and Frank Quinn (Bottom L-R) Joan Connolly, John McKerr, Noel Phillips, John Laverty and Joseph Murphy

"The events of Ballymurphy should never have happened, the families of those who were killed should never have had to experience the grief and trauma of that loss," Mr Lewis said.

"They should have not had to wait nearly five decades for the judgment this week, nor have been compelled to relive that terrible time in August 1971 again and again in their long, distressing quest for truth."

He added: "The vast majority of those who served in Northern Ireland did so with great dignity and professionalism, but it is clear that in some cases, the security forces and the Army made terrible errors too."

Mr Lewis continued: "There is no doubt that what happened on those awful few days in Ballymurphy also fuelled further violence and escalation, particularly in the early years of the Troubles.

"The government profoundly regrets and is truly sorry for these events, and how investigations after these terrible events were handled, and the additional pain that the families have had to endure in their fight to clear the names of their loved ones since they began their campaign almost five decades ago."

Mr Lewis alluded to plans for an amnesty on legacy prosecutions.

He spoke of the British government's intention to "address the legacy of the past" that would allow families who want information to "seek and receive answers" about what happened "with far less delay and distress".

"We want a path forward which will also pave the way for wider societal reconciliation for all communities, allowing all the people of Northern Ireland to focus on building a shared, stable, peaceful, and prosperous future.

He said that thousands of murders remain unsolved and that with each passing year "the integrity of evidence and the prospects of prosecutions do diminish".

He said the government is "determined" to address these issues "in a way that reflects the time that has passed, the complexity of Northern Ireland's troubled history, and the reality of the compromises that have already been made."

"But above all, we are determined to address it in a way that enables victims and survivors to get to the truth which they deserve", he said.

SDLP MP Colum Eastwood called on Mr Johnson to "come out of hiding" and meet the families of the victims.

Mr Eastwood told the House of Commons: "Will the secretary of state ask the prime minister to come out of hiding, come with me, meet the Ballymurphy families and tell them to their faces why he wants to protect their killers?"

DUP MP Ian Paisley thanked the British government for the apology and said the incident "cuts right to the quick of a divided city".

"This is a most heart-breaking affair. It cuts right to the quick of a divided city, a divided country, a divided people," he said.

"As a Protestant man, as a unionist, as a loyalist, I stretch out my hand of love, of forbearance, of common grief and compassion to my neighbour who has suffered and I say to them that their tears and the sting of their tears is the same as the sting of our tears.

"There's no difference in colour or feeling of that grief and we share that grief with them today in a heartfelt and compassionate way, and I hope they accept the sincerity of those remarks and those feelings that are across our country."

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