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Bloody Sunday families vow to continue their fight for justice

Families disappointed by judge's decision to prosecute just one former British soldier for the murder of two unarmed civilians

BLOODY Sunday families vowed to continue their fight for justice today after the “disappointing” decision to prosecute just one British soldier for the murder of two unarmed civilians in Derry almost 50 years ago.

They marched together from Derry’s Bogside memorial to the court in honour of the 14 people who were killed after soldiers from the Parachute Regiment opened fire on a civil rights demonstration in 1972.

There was a mixture of relief and disappointment as Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service announced that only one Paratrooper — Soldier F — was to be prosecuted for their role in the killings, which were described as “unjustified and unjustifiable” by Lord Saville in his 2010 report.

He faces charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

However the PPS ruled today there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable prospect of conviction for the remaining 16 soldiers, with some being deceased, leaving many families feeling that justice has not been fully served.

Liam Wray, the bother of James Wray said he felt a sense of relief over the decision, however said there were “a lot of sad, sad and heartbroken people today.”

John Kelly, the brother of 17-year-old victim Michael Kelly, said the families have had “a terrible disappointment” but would continue the fight for justice.

“We have walked a long journey since our fathers and brothers were brutally slaughtered on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday.

“Over that passage of time all the parents of the deceased have died — we are here to take their place.

“The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet.”

Michael was one of 14 innocent people gunned down as British troops opened fire on a peaceful civil rights demonstration in Derry on January 20 1972.

Soldiers initially claimed they were fired upon by IRA gunmen, however the Saville inquiry found that “all those killed were unarmed and that paratroopers had lost control and opened fire without warning. 

“Some had been trying to flee when they were hit and soldiers had made up false accounts in a bid to cover up their actions.”

Soldiers were accused of planting nail bombs which were found in the pockets of 17-year-old Gerard Donaghey, who was shot in the back while he was running away.

Neither those who searched his pockets in the house immediately after the shooting nor the British army medical officer (Soldier 138) who pronounced his death shortly afterwards said they saw any bombs.

The Saville inquiry offered immunity from legal action to all those who told the truth about their actions on the day. However Soldier F was found to have repeatedly lied about his involvement. He fired 13 rounds that day, claiming to have seen bombers and gunmen at various positions in the area. 

He initially denied shooting at the rubble barricade where Michael was shot. However, ballistics tests proved that the bullet which entered the 17-year-old’s body had in fact been fired from his rifle.

Soldier F changed his story, suddenly remembering that he had seen a bomber by the rubble that day. This, too, turned out to be a lie. It was found that he also shot and killed four people, including Patrick Doherty.

As Mr Doherty lay dying, Barney McGuigan went to his aid waving a white flag. A number of witnesses, including another soldier, claimed that Soldier F got down on one knee and pumped a bullet into Mr McGuigan’s head, killing him instantly.

General Sir Mike Jackson has been accused of ordering a cover-up and the falsification of documents in both Bloody Sunday and the “forgotten massacre” in Ballymurphy, west Belfast in August 1971.

One ex-para told the Star: “No officers are being put on trial for Bloody Sunday. Fire control is an officer’s responsibility. We need to be dragging these officers in to say what was going on that day. 

“There’s a lot of veterans who want to see Mike Jackson being brought in. He knows more than he is letting on. Officers should be made to answer.”

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neil paid tribute to the families for their “tireless efforts” campaigning for the truth.

While the news that just one soldier was to be charged was “a huge disappointment” it was a “ significant achievement” in the face of a cover-up by the state, she said.

Despite the brutal and cold-blooded nature of the killings, Britain’s Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the country is “indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction” during the Troubles.

He offered the government’s “full legal and pastoral support the individual affected by today's decision.

“This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.”

Fears had already been raised of a whitewash after Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley’s insensitive comments in the House of Commons last week.

She was forced to apologise amid calls for her resignation after claiming  that the actions of British soldiers during the Troubles were “not crimes” and they were “fulfilling their duty in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Anger had been stoked by the airing of a BBC television interview in which ‘Sergeant O’ — who was accused of wounding two people — insisted the massacre was “a job well done” and claimed he would do the same again.

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