Wednesday 16 October 2019

Family fury that only one soldier to be prosecuted over Bloody Sunday killings

Victims: Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney
Victims: Soldier F is accused of murdering James Wray and William McKinney
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The Bloody Sunday families have said the prosecution of just one soldier was a "terrible disappointment" almost five decades after the killings.

After a long campaign for justice, relatives said the families had been vindicated by the news murder charges are to be brought against a former paratrooper known only as Soldier F. However, they had hoped for multiple charges to be brought against all 17 paratroopers who were involved on January 30, 1972.

Soldier F will be charged with two murders and four attempted murders, the North's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced yesterday.

Speaking at a press conference in the Guildhall in Derry, Alana Burke, who was badly injured when she was run over by an army vehicle on Bloody Sunday, said: "This announcement is vindication of our decades-­long campaign to clear the names of our loved ones and to bring those responsible for their deaths and injuries to justice."

Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie was one of Soldier F's alleged victims, said it was "disappointing" for families who had not received the news they wanted, but added: "For us here today, it is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us."

Despite the fact there were not more charges, Mr ­McKinney added that a lack of prosecutions did not mean soldiers on that day 47 years ago had "acted in a dignified and appropriate way".

John Wray, aged nine when his brother James (22) was killed - also allegedly by Soldier F - said: "I'm relieved that somebody is being held to account for his death but I'm highly disappointed that the rest of the families haven't seen justice here today."

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was gunned down, said the families had worked for years on behalf of those who "cannot cry out for justice".

Soldier F was investigated over 17-year-old Michael's death but the PPS said the test for prosecution in that case had not been met.

The families vowed to keep fighting for their loved ones, with Mr Kelly adding: "The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet."

The Irish Government has now urged that the prosecution be allowed to run its course. Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said his thoughts were with the Bloody Sunday victims and their families on a "difficult day".

"They, and all victims of the Troubles, deserve access to effective investigations," he said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said the criminal justice system must be able to operate independently.

"At the same time, we need to prepare ourselves for the difficulties that this trial will cause, in terms of fuelling division across society in Northern Ireland," he said.

"This decision recognises that there is a case against one soldier. But the decision not to prosecute 16 other soldiers or the two Official IRA members will leave a terrible void for victims and families," he said.

Former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams described the decision as "wrong", while the deputy leader of the party Michelle O'Neill said the decision did not change the fact that Blood Sunday was a "massacre of innocents".

Solicitor Ciaran Shiels, who represents a number of the bereaved, said his clients had made a "remarkable achievement" but added that they will look at the decisions not to prosecute the others and, if they do not stand up to scrutiny, seek to challenge them.

Irish Independent

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