06/03/2003

Orde apologises to Bloody Sunday families

Following the publication of controversial comments attributed to the PSNI chief constable on the Saville Inquiry, Hugh Orde has met with families of those killed on Bloody Sunday for what he described as a "sensible and interesting debate".

Mr Orde stopped short of offering a full public apology but he did privately apologise for any grief the comments may have caused.

According to the Financial Times on February 19, Mr Orde was quoted as saying that the latest Bloody Sunday inquiry was a "waste of money".

He has since received widespread criticism over the article, and SDLP leader Mark Durkan slammed the chief constable for what he described as his "insensitivity and ignorance" towards Bloody Sunday victims.

However, Hugh Orde hit back today after his meeting with families of the victims saying that the suggestion that the Saville Inquiry was a "waste of money" was a "journalistic quote and not a quote from me".

He said the families were a "very dignified group of people who let me know exactly what they felt about the issue around the inquiry".

Mr Orde added: "They gave me the opportunity to explain what I had said and they gave me the opportunity to say I had no intention of causing any hurt to that group or anyone else who is involved in the inquiry. So it was a very useful meeting."

The chief constable explained that he had in fact been referring to the policing aspect of retrospective investigations.

"I have limited resources and I have to prevent future crime, investigate current crimes and I am coming under increasing pressure to investigate historic crimes. That was the purpose of the debate," he said.

"I know as an investigator that the older the case the more difficult it is to reach an evidential standard."

A sister of one of the Bloody Sunday victims, Kay Duddy, said: "He didn't apologise for the statement but he apologised for being misrepresented in the papers. And he apologised for any hurt that he may have caused.

"I feel that he is genuine enough and hopefully in the future if anything can be done to help us, he will be prepared to do that."

The Bloody Sunday Saville Inquiry was established in 1998 to investigate the circumstances which led to the deaths of 14 people in Londonderry on January 30 1972.

The final cost of the tribunal, led by Lord Saville of Newdigate, could rest around the £150 million mark. The inquiry's conclusions are not expected until next year.

(GMcG)

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