14/03/2019

One Soldier To Be Prosecuted Over Bloody Sunday Murders

One former paratrooper is to be prosecuted for two murders and four attempted murders on Bloody Sunday, the Public Prosecution Service has confirmed.

'Soldier F' is to be charged with the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, as well as the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

30 January 1972 became known as Bloody Sunday after 13 people were shot dead at a civil rights march in L'Derry.

The PPS said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute 16 other soldiers and two Official IRA men.

Relatives of the victims later described their reaction as a "terrible disappointment", but welcomed the news for the six families impacted by the pending prosecution.

The Saville Inquiry in 2010 found that the dead presented no threat when they were killed, and died without justification.

Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland, Stephen Herron reflected on his meeting with the families: "I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely difficult day for many of them. We wanted to meet with them personally to explain the prosecution decisions taken and to help them understand the reasons. We have spent time with them this morning, given them detailed information, and we are committed to further engagement over the coming period.

"There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the Inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings, due to strict rules of evidence that apply. I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, that this is in no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers.

"We recognise the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today. As prosecutors we are required to be wholly objective in our approach. However, that does not mean that we do not have compassion for all those who are affected by our decisions."

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said today marks another difficult experience for the families after a campaign fraught with obstruction.
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"They will be incredibly disappointed today," the Foyle MLA commented. "This campaign for truth, justice and accountability has been met with prevarication, equivocation and obstruction at every level. In sharp contrast, the unshakable dignity and solidarity of the families has been immense. I welcome the decision to prosecute Soldier F.

"The absence of prosecution for others is not, however, a vindication of their actions. They remain unjustified and unjustifiable. As Mayor of Derry, I walked proudly with the Bloody Sunday families as we received the Saville report. We will continue to stand with them as they campaign against the heinous wrongs that have been committed against them and against our community."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein MLA Michelle O'Neill said the decision to prosecute one soldier does not change the fact that Bloody Sunday was a "massacre of innocents".

Speaking in L'Derry, she said: "On behalf of Sinn Féin I want to pay tribute to the Bloody Sunday families whose long, painful campaign for truth and justice has been a source of inspiration for so many. Your determination and your dignity over the past 47 years has been remarkable and Sinn Féin has been proud to stand with you throughout that time.

"There is of course huge disappointment that only one former soldier has been charged with two counts of murder and four attempted murders. We share that disappointment and the sense of incredulity at this decision, given the clearly established facts about the actions of the British Army on Bloody Sunday.

"But even the fact that one former soldier is to face trial is a significant achievement. I also commend the dignity and solidarity shown by the families today in response to the decision. As they said themselves, justice for one family, is justice for them all.

"We are mindful also that the British military and political establishment of the time have never been held accountable for their role in Bloody Sunday and the subsequent Widgery cover-up. That is as wrong now as it was then. The British State must be answerable for the crimes it has committed in Ireland. And it is appalling that the British Defence Secretary announced today, in response to this decision, that his Government intends to amend the legacy system to protect former state forces."



(JG/CM)

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