SDLP leader says families conducted themselves with 'astonishing dignity — Bloody Sunday

16 March, 2019, 22:50 | Author: Wade Massey
  • A former British soldier is set to be prosecuted in connection with the deaths of two civil rights protester

He was speaking outside the Supreme Court in London on Thursday, where around 40 supporters of 77-year-old former soldier Dennis Hutchings had gathered.

Eighteen others, including 16 former British soldiers and two nationalist gunmen said to have fired shots that day, will not be prosecuted, the officials said, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to provide a reasonable chance of conviction.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said it was important that no one said anything to prejudice the process following yesterday's decision, adding that his thoughts were with all of the families.

"Their hearts must be broken", he said.

"Even when I got the news on Jim, which I was relieved obviously about, still my overall feeling was one of sadness and sickness".

He added: "There are a lot of sad and heartbroken people today".

"We wanted to meet them personally to explain the decisions taken and to help them understand the reasons".

Those killed on Bloody Sunday were John "Jackie" Duddy, 17, Michael Kelly, 17, Hugh Gilmour, 17, John Young, 17, Kevin McElhinney, 17, Gerard Donaghy, 17, William Nash, 19, Michael McDaid, 20, James "Jim" Wray, 22, William McKinney, 26, Patrick Doherty, 31, Gerard McKinney, 35, and Bernard "Barney" McGuigan, 41.

Mr Herron said he was conscious that relatives faced an "extremely hard day".

The city of Londonderry - known as Derry by its Catholic residents - was the scene of the infamous massacre when soldiers shot 27 unarmed people in a civil rights protest.

CAPTION: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood pictured outside Derry's Guildhall this afternoon after the PPS anounced that a single soldier would be prosecuted for his actions on Bloody Sunday.

"Saville said there were four soldiers - E, F, G or H - who could have fired at McKinney and another victim, Jim Wray".

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It was set up in 1998 and reported back in 2010, becoming the longest-running inquiry in British legal history and costing about £200m.

The inquiry report also stated Soldier F had changed his story over the years.

Asked where their campaign now stands, Mr Kelly said: "The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet".

Reacting to the announcement by the PPS this morning, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Clearly, we are indebted to those who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland".

"The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance", Williamson said in a statement. And it is appalling that the British defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, announced in response to the Bloody Sunday decision that his government intends to "drive through a package of new safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated".

"If it is in the public interest to suspend prosecutions and release terrorists early from prison, it can not be in the public interest after almost half a century to prosecute these people", Richard Benyon, a ruling party MP and former British army officer, told The Times.

Relatives of the victims told reporters that the families were disappointed by the decision to charge only one soldier, and that the bereaved families are also among the victims. Lord Saville gave families consolation when he condemned the soldiers and exonerated their victims, who he said were not posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.

What followed was a 12-year-long investigation involving more than 900 witnesses and hundreds of hours of evidence.

A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in November 2016. "And all the families probably feel the same way that what we're trying to achieve is for them (the victims)".

He said: "There have been many hard days since January 30, 1972".

However, Army barricades blocked marchers.

"Thankfully we had the people in this town who were very supportive of the families".

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