Northern Ireland

Analysis: Truth matters to Bloody Sunday families

The march will re-trace the route of the original Bloody Sunday marchers
Once again the Bloody Sunday soldiers are getting off scott-free.

The truth about Bloody Sunday has always mattered to the families of the dead and wounded and to the people of Derry.

On the evening of Bloody Sunday, the British government issued its version of events – significantly through the British embassy in the US. That placed on record a version of the killings that was completely and deliberately untrue.

Official minutes show that on the evening of Monday January 31, 1972, then Prime Minister Edward Heath reminded Lord Chief Justice Widgery that “‘we are in Northern Ireland fighting not only a military war but a propaganda war”.

In other words, he told him to make sure the Widgery Tribunal did not condemn the Parachute Regiment. Widgery duly obliged.

In their testimonies to Widgery, the soldiers testified that they responded to attacks from the IRA by shooting at identifiable armed targets. That version remained the official account for 38 years until June 2010 when it was completely overthrown by Lord Saville.

In their campaign for a new inquiry, the Bloody Sunday families uncovered evidence of Paratroopers’ statements to their own commanders and the Military Police in 1972 being changed to reflect favourably on the killers.

The soldiers’ evidence and the Widgery conclusions ensured Bloody Sunday, for some, remains an open sore, never healed.

When he published his report, Lord Saville concluded that the soldiers involved had knowingly given false evidence; they lied under oath.

In any other legal arena, the fact that a Law Lord and two retired senior judges accused witnesses of lying would be enough to place them before the courts.

However, 14 years later, a decision was taken not to force the 15 surviving former soldiers and an alleged former Official IRA man to answer Lord Saville’s allegation.

With just two weeks before Britain’s Legacy Act deadline for legal actions, the Bloody Sunday families have little time to challenge the PPS decision.

It is understandable, therefore, that they believe that once again the men who murdered their fathers, sons, brothers are getting off Scot-free.