Northern Ireland news

Bloody Sunday families: 'I could cry but I'm not going to cry'

John Kelly comforts Alana Burke at the Guildhall in Derry after the announcement that only one former soldier will be prosecuted over the Bloody Sunday killings. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Seamus McKinney

JOHN Kelly was determined not to cry as he processed the news that the soldier who killed his younger brother Michael would not be prosecuted.

So often the public face of the Bloody Sunday campaign, he had high hopes the families’ final demand would be met.

The contrast yesterday with the June day in 2010 when Lord Saville delivered the findings of his exhaustive inquiry could not have been greater.

Then, in blazing sunshine, the families punched the air in victory. Thousands of Derry people cheered with them as Saville pronounced the victims innocent.

People in Guildhall Square had wept with joy as they watched prime minister David Cameron apologise and describe the killings as “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

But the tears shed yesterday were those of pain and heartbreak.

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The families walked in solidarity through a damp, grey spring day after Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron confirmed that most of the killers would never answer in court for their actions.

Bloody Sunday goes to Derry’s soul. As news spread that only 'Soldier F' would be prosecuted, the pain of the families spread with it. A feeling of despair settled across the city.

Michael Kelly, who was killed on Bloody Sunday

Earlier, as they went into the room to meet the PPS, there had been an air of expectancy, Mr Kelly said.

“The room was laid out with tables allocated to each of the families. The Director of Public Prosecutions came in and started going through sector to sector (where the killings took place), starting off with Damien Donaghey and John Johnston – ‘Soldier A and B, we’re not going to prosecute’ and he gave the reasons.”

As Mr Herron reached the rubble barricade where his 17-year-old brother died, Mr Kelly said he knew Michael’s killer had escaped justice.

“I thought 'Don’t tell me he’s going to get away with this'."

By the time prosecutors had finished, the families were “totally devastated”.

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“I looked around and people were in tears and people were walking out; they couldn’t take it any more.”

John Kelly brother of Michael Kelly pumps his fist into the air to cheering crowds after reading a copy of the long-awaited Saville Inquiry report outside the Guildhall in Derry

As he tried to comprehend what happened, the Derry man said he was struggling to keep his emotions under control.

“To be honest, I could cry but I’m not going to cry because I’ve tried my best; we’ve worked hard over all these years and at the same time it’s not over yet.”

14-03-2019: The Bloody Sunday families hold a minutes silence for the victims following a press conference at the Guildhall in Derry on Thursday after being informed by the Public Prosecution Service that it will pursue prosecutions against the British soldiers involved in the deaths of 13 unarmed men in the Derry Bogside on January 30th 1972. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 14-3-2019.

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