Bloody Sunday: families react to former soldier charged with murder

Alan Barry

Alan Barry

The charges follow a decade-long investigation that concluded the soldiers killed unarmed demonstrators.

Gathered in a conference room at a Londonderry hotel, relatives of the 13 killed (another who was wounded on the day died later) and the many injured on Bloody Sunday learned that just one soldier, known only as Soldier F was to be charged.

Today, the Public Prosecution Service will announce whether or not the soldiers accused of murdering the civilians killed on Bloody Sunday will face prosecution. NI PPS found that "the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction" in relation to the other 18 suspects.

The Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland said on Thursday there was enough evidence to prosecute Soldier F in the deaths of James Wray and William McKinney.

But family members said they were deeply disappointed that more paratroopers will not be charged over the incident.

British troops opened fire on protesters participating in an unauthorized march in Bogside, a nationalist area of Londonderry, on January 30, 1972.

A judicial inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, which took place at the height of Northern Ireland's 30-year sectarian conflict, said in 2010 the victims were innocent and had posed no threat to the military.

Following the Saville Inquiry report's publication, then-Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the soldiers' actions in the House of Commons.

"There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry".

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However, Mr Shiels did welcome the news of Soldier F's prosecution as a "remarkable achievement by the families and victims of Bloody Sunday".

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was shot dead said: "I was going to begin by saying it was a good morning, but it's not".

"In these circumstances the evidence Test for Prosecution is not met".

"The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today's decision".

"We have walked the long journey since our fathers and brothers were brutally slaughtered on the streets of Derry", the families said in a statement.

"This does not mean that because they haven't been prosecuted that they are not guilty". English judge Mark Saville, who conducted the investigation, gave the ex-paratroopers broad protections from criminal charges and anonymity, citing the risk that they could be targeted with retaliation by IRA dissidents. "Our serving and former personnel can not live in constant fear of prosecution".

"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".

Over time, though, the victims' families got organized, campaigned for justice and eventually, more than 25 years after the killings, when a peace deal was signed in Northern Ireland, the British government committed to a full-scale inquiry.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.

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