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Thursday 22 February 2018

Bloody Sunday: DPP not involved in police murder probe decision

Deric Henderson, Press Association

THE Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions was not involved in the police decision to launch a murder investigation into the Bloody Sunday killings, his office said today.

Barra McGrory QC represented Martin McGuinness in the marathon Saville Inquiry into the shootings in Derry in January 1972 when the Sinn Fein MP was an IRA leader in the city.

A report which confirmed the innocence of the 13 men shot dead by British Paratroopers also claimed that Mr McGuinness, now the deputy Northern Ireland First Minister, gave wrong information about his movements that day and was probably carrying a machine gun which he may have used to open fire on troops.

A 14th victim died later.

The Chief Constable of the PSNI Matt Baggott said the new police investigation involving up to 40 officers could take four years to complete.

Mr McGrory, then a solicitor, represented Mr McGuiness at the Saville probe into the shootings, but insisted today he had no part in the decision by the Chief Constable to begin a murder inquiry.

A spokesperson said that when he took up his position as Director last November he had identified Bloody Sunday as one of a number of cases in which there may be a potential conflict of interest.

She added: "The Director had therefore already determined that he would not be involved in any decision as to whether or not to prosecute in those cases."

Some Unionist politicians, furious with the Chief Constable's decision, are demanding that Mr McGuinness be questioned and that the inquiry be widened to include the murders of two RUC officers shot dead by the IRA in Derry just days before Bloody Sunday. One of the gunmen involved reportedly used a sub-machine gun.

East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: "If the material contained in the Saville Report is good enough to warrant an investigation of the soldiers, then the police will also note that the report indicates the Deputy First Minister was 'probably' carrying a sub-machine-gun on that day. This must also merit investigation by the police."

The Saville Inquiry, which lasted seven years, cost an estimated £200 million, but the findings cannot be used as evidence in the police probe.

The PSNI is already under massive pressure investigating unsolved murders, many going back decades, including the bombing of village of Claudy, Co Derry, in July 1972 which claimed the lives of nine people.

Even though the IRA is widely believed to have been responsible, the organisation never owned up to that attack, 15 miles from Derry. It is currently under investigation by the PSNI.

But a brother of one of the victims, nine-year-old Kathryn Eakin, claimed police told him two months ago that they did not have enough resources to do it.

Mark Eakin said: "They were stretched for manpower. I am not saying that Bloody Sunday should not be investigated by the police, but how are they going to do it if they can't investigate what happened in Claudy?

"Is this another inquiry which is going to be swept under the carpet?"

Kate Nash, whose brother William, 19, was among the Bloody Sunday victims, said relatives were still seeking justice.

She said: "We never asked for an (Saville) inquiry. We always asked for prosecutions because my brother was an innocent victim. They were all innocent."

She said the police inquiry should go to wherever the evidence took them, even it meant Mr McGuinness being questioned as well.

She did not know if he had been carrying a gun on the day of the shootings. He could defend himself.

She added: "Everyone concerned with Bloody Sunday should be questioned. If the police have any evidence against anyone who committed a crime, then they should be questioned. Everyone is entitled to justice."

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