British PM writes apology letters to families of 1971 Belfast deaths
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits County Durham - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks during a visit to Cleves Cross Primary school in County Durham. - Scott Heppell/PA Wire/dpa
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits County Durham - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks during a visit to Cleves Cross Primary school in County Durham. - Scott Heppell/PA Wire/dpa

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is writing apology letters to the families of victims killed by the British army in Belfast nearly five decades ago.

Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Brandon Lewis, said the government "profoundly regrets" and is "truly sorry" about what happened during the Ballymurphy massacre in August 1971 and "how investigations after these terrible events were handled," in a speech given in British Parliament on Thursday.

"The prime minister is writing personally to the families and expressed his deep regret to the first and deputy first Ministers of Northern Ireland yesterday, and has apologised unreservedly on behalf of the state," he added.

"The findings of the coroner are clear, those who died were entirely innocent of wrongdoing. The events at Ballymurphy should never have happened."

His comments come after coroner Siobhan Keegan ruled on Tuesday the 10 people who were killed by the British army in Belfast between August 9 and 11 were "entirely innocent" and “disproportionate” force was used in nine of the 10 deaths.

The inquest was part of a major review, launched by judges in Northern Ireland in 2016, to investigate concluded and outstanding inquiries into controversial killings during the period known as The Troubles.

But the families were unhappy with Lewis' statement, with Briege Voyle, whose mother died in the attacks, stating Johnson “does not care” about people in Northern Ireland.

"They didn’t mention an investigation," she told British news agency PA Media. "Now we have to start again to try and find out why our loved ones were murdered. Why? They were innocent, my mummy was shot in broad daylight."