Northern Ireland

Bloody Sunday parade: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood welcomes decision not to prosecute

‘I am glad that common sense has at last prevailed’

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed the PPS decision not to prosecute.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has welcomed the PPS decision not to prosecute.

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood will not face prosecution after taking part in an unnotified parade with the families of Bloody Sunday victims last August.

Mr Eastwood had walked along a number of streets with families on August 25 to Bishop Street Courthouse in Derry for a hearing relating to the prosecution of a former paratrooper, known only as Soldier F.

A complaint was lodged at the time by the loyalist activist Jamie Bryson, who said any breach of the law around parades should be equally enforced by police no matter which side of the community it came from.

Mr Eastwood later said that police wanted to interview him under caution, labelling the police investigation into the matter a “total and utter farce”.



On Thursday, the Public Prosecution Service confirmed they had decided not to prosecute seven individuals in relation to the unnotified procession.

“After careful consideration of all evidence submitted by police and the full context in which the procession took place, decisions were taken not to prosecute all seven on public interest grounds,” a spokesperson said.

Public interest factors listed in the decision included; that the procession involved a relatively small amount of people and was short in duration, that it was peaceful and caused no public disorder or deployment of police was needed, that no harm or damage occurred and there was minimal disruption to the traffic and the general public.

It was also noted that no complaints were made by members of the local community or any evidence of any negative community impact.

A PPS spokeswoman said: “It was considered that the conduct of the reported individuals did amount to participation in a public procession and that their procession had not been subject to the legal notification required.

“However, the purpose of having legislative regulation of parades and processions in Northern Ireland is to control public disorder and damage, to minimise disruption to the life of the community and to enhance community relations.”

They added that the decision was reached impartially and was “clear that the procession investigated did not raise any of those risks and therefore the public interest would not be served by pursuing criminal proceedings.”

With each case reported to police taking into account the specific facts and circumstances, they said the decision did not reflect a general policy position in relation to the prosecution of unnotified processions or parades.

A photograph of Bishop Daly leading a group as they carried victim, Jackie Duddy from the Bogside became one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday.
A photograph of Bishop Daly leading a group as they carried victim, Jackie Duddy from the Bogside became one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday. A photograph of Bishop Daly leading a group as they carried victim, Jackie Duddy from the Bogside became one of the iconic images of Bloody Sunday.

Welcoming the decision, Mr Eastwood said: “The people of Derry have been standing with the Bloody Sunday families for over 50 years and nothing will ever change that.

“The PPS decision today is the right one. Families who walked to court together and were joined by their representatives should not have been put through this ordeal on top of 50 years of injustice. I am glad that common sense has at last prevailed.

“This entire process has added more hurt to families who have endured decades of pain.”

He continued: “The complaint was completely vexatious and those responsible should be ashamed.

“This episode cannot be allowed to distract from what is truly important – accountability for what happened in Derry on that day. The SDLP will continue to stand by the families as they continue their fight and will be by their side until the very end.”

Ciarán Shiels of Madden & Finucane Solicitors represents Mr Eastwood and the majority of the Bloody Sunday families.

“This was a matter that never should have troubled the PPS, who have genuine and serious criminal cases that require to be progressed through the courts,” he said, adding that his firm would now be submitting a detailed complaint on behalf of the Bloody Sunday families to the Police Ombudsman.

A PSNI spokesperson commented: “In line with our statutory obligations Police conducted an investigation and submitted a file to the Public Prosecution Service for consideration. We acknowledge their decision, and have nothing further to add at this time.”

Last week, it was also reported that police are investigating another unnotified parade after a pro-Palestine vigil in Derry which was addressed by Mr Eastwood,

The procession from the city’s Diamond to Guildhall Square on February 14 followed a vigil in support of Palestinians coming under fire from Israeli forces in Rafah.

Police said that participants had made their way onto the road and onto Shipquay Street, with verbal warnings issued that they were taking part in an unnotified procession/parade.

SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood addressed a "solidarity for Rafah" vigil at Derry's Diamond on Wednesday.
SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood addressed a "solidarity for Rafah" vigil at Derry's Diamond on Wednesday.