Northern Ireland news

Praise for Bloody Sunday families' dignity and determination

The Bloody Sunday families stood for a minute's silence in memory of their loved ones. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

THE Irish government has expressed its support for the Bloody Sunday families following yesterday’s announcement that former paratrooper, Soldier F is to be prosecuted for murder.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said the government’s thoughts were with the families on what was a difficult and emotional day.

“All victims’ families deserve and must have access to effective investigations into killings that took place and have the opportunity to find justice in accordance with the law and regardless of the perpetrator,” he said.

The families were widely praised for their dignity and determination following yesterday’s announcement.

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood said the fact that only one soldier was to be prosecuted was “incredibly disappointing”.

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He said: “Today’s announcement from the Public Prosecution Service is another difficult day for many families.”

Sinn Féin vice president, Michelle O’Neill told the families that their tireless efforts ensured the truth about Bloody Sunday was now known around the world.

“There is of course huge disappointment that only one former soldier has been charged with two counts of murder and four attempted murders.

“We share that disappointment and the sense of incredulity at this decision, given the clearly established facts about the actions of the British army on Bloody Sunday,” Ms O’Neill said.

In a statement released from the US, Sinn Féin president, Mary Lou McDonald said the Bloody Sunday families and the people of Derry had endured a “long and painful” journey.

“Our hearts are with them today,” she said.

Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin said many of the families would be extremely disappointed that only one former soldier had been charged.

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Mr Martin said: “Notwithstanding the families’ inevitable disappointment today, the prosecution of Soldier F is significant given the denial of the British government for many years.”

Alliance Party leader, Naomi Long paid tribute to the families. Ms Long said due process should now be respected and the courts should be allowed to do their job.

However, there was also criticism of the decision to prosecute Soldier F.

East Derry MP, Gregory Campbell said the Saville Inquiry failed to take into account the context in which soldiers were serving in 1972. He said the fact that former deputy first minister, the late Martin McGuinness and the Official IRA had weapons present should also form part of the overall picture.

“There is still a disproportionate focus however on the small proportion of the ten per cent of deaths attributed to those who were attempting to serve the community in difficult and often very dangerous situations,” he said.

A number of former British soldiers also criticised yesterday’s ruling. Former Grenadier Guard, Alan Barry, who founded the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans’ group, said Soldier F had been “thrown under a bus.”

Mr Barry said: “It’s very one-sided. No soldier should be charged. It happened 47 years ago, a lone in the sand needs to be drawn and people need to move on.”

The former soldier said the Good Friday Agreement was “all about appeasement; appeasing the IRA, appeasing Sinn Féin.”

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