Published: Sat, March 16, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Ex-soldier to be charged in Bloody Sunday killings

Ex-soldier to be charged in Bloody Sunday killings

British soldiers opened fire at a protest march in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on January 30, 1972, killing 13 people and injuring 14 others.

Thirteen people died on the day - including Jackie Duddy, Michael Kelly, Hugh Gilmour, John Young, Gerard Donaghy and Kevin McElhinney, who were all 17 - while John Johnston, 59, died six months later.

Liam Wray, brother of victim James Wray, said he was relieved that an ex-soldier would be prosecuted for his brother's murder after 47 years.

According to the Saville report, James Wray was shot twice - once as he ran away, and once as he was on the ground.

A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

Kate Nash, who was 23 when her 19-year-old brother, William Nash, was killed and her father, Alex, injured, said she was "very, very saddened" by the decision.

"It is because of your tireless efforts over many decades that the truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday is now known throughout the world.

The full cost of Bloody Sunday can not be measured just in those who died that day".

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. However, he could be identified when he is brought to trial.

Soldier F reportedly joined the Parachute Regiment in 1966.

That is typical of a government which continues to cover up its role in the conflict and still delays the establishment of the legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House agreement five years ago.

Reacting to the PPS decision to prosecute "Soldier F" for murder and attempted murder, founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group, Alan Barry said: "It's one soldier too many as far as we're concerned".

Most suspects are now in their 60s and 70s.

"It has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction", said the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron.

"In these circumstances, the evidential test for prosecution is not met", Herron said.

Britain's Ministry of Defense said it would help defend the ex-soldier who will now face prosecution, while working to reform the system for investigating allegations of past misdeeds by the military.

Victim's families said they were disappointed by the decision. "However, that does not mean that we do not have compassion for all those who are affected by our decisions".

"It has been a long road for the families... and today will be another extremely hard day for many of them", Northern Ireland's director of public prosecutions Stephen Herron said as he announced the charges.

'This was feared because we have been let down so many times by those who should have supported us, ' he said.

The journey may have been much shorter than the well-trodden route undertaken by hundreds of thousands down the years on the anniversary of that fateful day, but the magnitude of the moment was lost on no-one as they gathered outside the Museum of Free Derry at Glenfada Park yesterday morning. "Do not deny us justice any longer".

After giving evidence at the Widgery inquiry is Joseph Friel (left) who was shot in the chest by a British soldier. It was called a "whitewash" by the victims' families.

Mr Mercer also tweeted that the Bloody Sunday charges brought against Soldier F were the result of "an abject failure to govern and legislate, on our watch as a Conservative administration".

Following the inquiry's conclusion in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron said the killings were unjustified and unjustifiable.

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