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'Shock' as department pulls out of families' HIU workshop

Vincent Coyle at the spot on the outskirts of Derry where his nephew Kieran Doherty was found shot dead
Connla Young

The sister of a Bloody Sunday victim last night said she was "horrified” after Department of Justice officials pulled out of a workshop to discuss the proposed Historical Investigations Unit.

The event was planned after some families complained that they had not been invited to department-organised events about the new cold case unit.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) has carried out a series of workshops across the north in recent weeks with "stakeholders".

Some relatives who were not invited organised their own meeting at a Derry hotel today, which was to be attended by DoJ officials.

However, the department dramatically withdrew from the meeting last night.

Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed along with 14 other innocent Catholics by the British army in Derry in January 1972, said she was shocked.

“I can’t believe it,” she said.

"This would have been the first time they would have had to face victims.

"Bloody Sunday was the biggest massacre that happened in the country and they could not come and face us."

A spokesman for the DoJ last night confirmed that a series of stakeholder meetings had taken place.

On the Derry meeting, he said: “As this has now grown into a public meeting, going beyond the scope of the current stakeholder engagement, the department regrets that officials will not be able to attend.”

He said it will arrange “one to one meetings with appropriate interested parties” in future.

The original workshops were organised as part of a process to set up a Historical Investigations Unit under last December’s Stormont House Agreement.

Legislation for the new unit will be passed in Westminster, with authorities hoping to have it in place by next year.

It is believed a consultation paper has been forwarded to a Stormont House Implementation Group for consideration.

The proposed unit will examine cases between January 1966 and April 1998 and plans are already in place to appoint a director designate.

Ms Nash said there is concern that some of the British soldiers involved in the Bloody Sunday massacre may evade justice under the proposals.

Concern was also voiced by Derry campaigner Vincent Coyle, whose nephew Kieran Doherty was shot dead by the Real IRA in 2010 – 12 years after the HIU’s cut off date.

He said all killings relating to the north’s political situation should be considered by the HIU.

Relatives also say they want clarification of the role of the proposed Commission for Information Retrieval (ICIR) - which will give an amnesty to those who provide information on violent events during the Troubles.

They are also want more information on a proposed oral history archive.

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