Northern Ireland news

Naming Soldier F 'not right thing to do' says chair of Bloody Sunday Inquiry Lord Saville

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood used parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F

USING parliamentary privilege to name the British soldier accused of murdering civil rights marchers on Bloody Sunday was “not the right thing to do”, according to the chair of the inquiry into the 1972 killings.

Lord Saville said the reasons for the court's ruling on anonymity for so-called Soldier F remained valid.

Soldier F is facing murder charges for the killings of William McKinney and James Wray, and five attempted murder charges relating to Bloody Sunday, when British army paratroopers shot dead 13 people in Derry.

The PPS has signalled that it plans to drop the charges in the wake of the collapse in May of the trial of two soldiers accused of murdering Offical IRA leader Joe McCann in 1972. The judge in that case found that statements provided at the time of the killing by Soldier A and Soldier C were inadmissible.

The Soldier F case is on hold pending a legal challenge by one of the dead men's relatives.

Earlier this week, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood used parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F in the House of Commons.

Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said the Foyle MP did not break any rules.

Lord Saville told the BBC: "As far as we were concerned we were directed by the courts [during the inquiry] to provide anonymity not just to him but to a very large number of people for the reasons set out in detail in court and which we loyally complied with.

"I think [naming Soldier F] on the whole it was not right thing to do – the court set out in detail to provide anonymity... and those reasons remain valid."

Quizzed on the British government's proposals for a statute of limitations for Troubles-related offences and whether those involved in the Bloody Sunday killings should escape prosecution, Lord Saville said he held no particular opinion on the matter, adding there were strong views of those on both sides of the argument.

"It is a very difficult decision to decide what to do with such strong feelings on both sides and legitimate concerns on both sides," he said.

He said putting a time limit on justice “depended on the circumstances” and claimed the British government proposals for a truth recovery process mirrored those of post-apartheid South Africa.

"We spent a long time trying to get people to tell the truth, in some cases we got close to it and in others we had to infer from all the evidence of what happened – some will cooperate and others won't," he said.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said she believed it was not right to overrule a court order and name individuals using parliamentary privilege.

"We have seen parliamentary privilege used on many occasions against individuals who were subsequently not involved and their lives have been ruined by information put into the public domain," she said.

"This is a different case when, as Colum says, the individuals actions are a matter of public record but I do think when judges grant anonymity for a purpose that should be respected."

The SDLP leader defended his actions.

"I have respect for victims first and foremost," he said.

"I have respect for those people who for almost 50 years struggled for truth and justice against people like Soldier F – the idea he should be some protected species is beyond me."

Mr Eastwood said Soldier F had admitted his role in the killings during the Saville inquiry.

"We have known his name for 25 years, it has been plastered all over the walls of Derry and all over social media," he said.

"The families have had to deal with this for 50 odd years, it is a disgrace someone can be granted anonymity for 50 years, be able to keep that anonymity and then get an amnesty."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news