A coroner has concluded that all of the ten people who were shot and killed in Ballymurphy in west Belfast almost 50 years ago were "entirely innocent" and that their deaths were unjustified.

Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan delivered her findings in relation to the deaths of the ten victims over the course of more than two-and-a-half hours today.

Family members of the victims applauded after the coroner read out her verdicts in relation to each of the ten victims.

The findings were delivered at the International Convention Centre at the Waterfront in Belfast.

Mrs Justice Keegan said this has been the longest running inquest in Northern Ireland to date. She thanked the victims' families on what she called a "difficult occasion of remembrance".

Judge Keegan said she hoped that "some peace may be achieved now that these findings have been delivered".

The inquest began in November 2018 and heard more than 100 days of evidence.

A Catholic priest and a mother-of-eight were among the victims killed over the course of three days between 9-11 August in 1971.

The shootings, which have become known as "the Ballymurphy massacre", happened immediately after the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.

Those who died were Joan Connolly, 44; Joseph Corr, 43; Edward Doherty, 31; John Laverty, 20; John McKerr, 49; Fr Hugh Mullan, 38; Joseph Murray, 41; Noel Phillips, 19; Frank Quinn, 19; and Daniel Teggart, 44.

No one has ever been charged or convicted in connection with any of their deaths.

The original inquests in 1972 recorded open verdicts, however fresh inquests were approved in 2011 following a lengthy campaign by the Ballymurphy families.

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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

In respect of the first incident, the coroner said Fr Hugh Mullan and Frank Quinn were killed by shots fired by soldiers and that the force used was not justified.

She said she was satisfied both entered the field to assist an injured man.

Immediate family members were present at the ICC to hear Mrs Justice Keegan deliver her findings, while other family members and witnesses in the inquest watched the proceedings remotely.

While the coroner said there was evidence of a small number of IRA gunmen in the wider area on the day, she said this did not apply to the waste ground when the men were shot. She said neither man was armed and they were not in the vicinity of someone with a gun.

Mrs Justice Keegan said there was evidence that the priest had been waving a white item, either a handkerchief or T-shirt.

She said the use of force used by the army was disproportionate in the circumstances, further noting the soldiers were firing from protected positions from a long distance away and the fact there were many civilians in the field fleeing from violence that was unfolding elsewhere.

She said the state had failed to demonstrate that its use of force had been justified.

The coroner also rejected a suggestion from the Ministry of Defence that the men may have been shot by a UVF sniper from the nearby Springmartin area.

Mrs Justice Keegan said she had been unable to identify which soldiers fired the fatal shots. The conclusion of her findings were met with applause by family members in court.

In regard to incident two, Mrs Justice Keegan again found that the killings of Noel Philips, Joseph Murphy, Joan Connolly and Daniel Teggart were not justified. She said the victims were "innocent" and unarmed.

"The army had a duty to protect lives and minimise harm, and the use of force was clearly disproportionate," she said.

In regard to Mr Teggart, she rejected an allegation from one military witness that ammunition was found in his pockets.

She said there was no evidence to suggest any of the deceased were linked to the IRA. The coroner said there were IRA gunmen in the area at the time.

She said there had been a "basic inhumanity" in how long Mrs Connolly had been left to lie injured on the ground. However, she said she could not determine whether the delay in treatment had contributed to her death.

Mrs Justice Keegan also ruled out a theory that Mr Murphy had been shot again by soldiers when he was taken inside the hall.

The coroner said the four deceased had been killed by British soldiers shooting from the Henry Taggart Hall and she said ballistics evidence disproved that they had been shot by the UVF.

She said she could not determine who fired the shots, other than they were members of the Parachute Regiment stationed at the Henry Taggart Hall.

Family members in court applauded her conclusions. In the third incident, the coroner ruled the use of force in shooting Eddie Doherty was disproportionate.

She also rejected claims that Mr Doherty had been throwing petrol bombs at the time.

"He was an innocent man who posed no threat," she said. The soldier who fired the shot that killed him was in a tractor that was attempting to clear the barricade.

The coroner said she accepted that at least two petrol bombs had been thrown at the tractor and that the soldier inside would have held an honest belief that his life was in danger, and was justified in using some force as a consequence.

But she said his actions went beyond that.

"On any reading he acted in contravention of the Yellow Card (army's rules of engagement)," she said.

The coroner added: "The use of force was disproportionate to the risk posed to him."

Family members in court again applauded her conclusions.

On the fourth incident, the coroner said the military had failed to establish an adequate justification for the use of lethal force in killing Joseph Corr and John Laverty.

She concluded they were shot by the British Army and there was no evidence that they could have been shot by anyone else.

The coroner rejected claims the men were gunmen who had been firing at soldiers.

"There is no evidence that guns were found on or near any of these two men," she said.

The coroner added: "It was wrong to describe these two men as gunmen and that rumour should be dispelled."

The coroner also raised concerns about "serious failings" in military testimony provided in respect of the shootings.

On the fifth incident, the coroner said John McKerr was an entirely innocent man.

However, she said there was not enough evidence for her to determine where the shot that killed him came from, or whether it was fired by the military or paramilitaries.

"It is impossible to say where shot may have come from," she said. "The evidence is not consistent and clear in this case."

The coroner said it was "shocking" there was no adequate investigation of the killing afterwards. She added: "I have no hesitation in stating that Mr McKerr was an entirely innocent man."

The coroner said he was "shot indiscriminately on the street".

She noted that Mr McKerr was a "proud military man" and claims he was associated with the IRA had caused great pain for his family in the five decades since.

"I can allay that rumour and suspicion once and for all," she said.

Additional reporting: PA