Belfast Telegraph

Bloody Sunday probe 'should include Martin McGuinness'

By Michael McHugh and Deric Henderson

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has said any inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings should include the role of Martin McGuinness.

The Sinn Fein MP and Stormont Deputy First Minister was an IRA leader in Londonderry in January 1972, the month when the shootings happened.

Mr McGuinness earned plaudits last month when he shook the Queen's hand in a gesture of reconciliation and has moved to distance the IRA from blame for Bloody Sunday.

A report which confirmed the innocence of the 13 men shot dead by British paratroopers also claimed that Mr McGuinness gave wrong information about his movements that day and was probably carrying a machine gun but did not engage in "any activity that provided any of the soldiers with any justification for opening fire". A 14th victim of the soldiers died later.

Mr Robinson asked: "How could you avoid an inquiry into that and say that we're going to have an inquiry into the Army personnel that were there?

"The Deputy First Minister has openly admitted that he was in charge. If that was the case then there has to be an investigation if you're investigating the Army."

The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Matt Baggott, has said the inquiry involving up to 30 officers could take four years.

Police have yet to set a start date. The PSNI and Public Prosecution Service reviewed the findings of the Saville inquiry, which said none of those killed were armed.

Mr McGuinness said: "Lord Saville was very clear in his report into Bloody Sunday that the IRA had no responsibility for what happened on that day.

"I consider comments from unionist politicians today in the wake of the decision of the PSNI to investigate the events of Bloody Sunday as an attempt to divert attention away from the actions of the Parachute Regiment on that day.

"It is clear that they do not want to see the Paras investigated for murder."

Bloody Sunday was branded "unjustified and "unjustifiable" by Prime Minister David Cameron as he unveiled a landmark report into shootings which earned headlines around the world. The civil rights protesters were declared innocent by that report and soldiers were found to have opened fire in the mistaken belief that they were under threat.

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

The Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions was not involved in the decision to launch the murder investigation, his office said today.

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

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 to open an investigation, are demanding 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.

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

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

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 if it meant Mr McGuinness being questioned as well.

Northern Ireland Police Federation chairman Terry Spence said the organisation had consistently taken the view that, where there was sufficient evidence of criminality by either police officers or Army personnel, prosecutions should follow. But the announcement of what he suggested would be a £10 million five-year criminal investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday raised issues of priority and fairness.

At a time when detectives were still investigating the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr - blown up by dissident republicans in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in April last year - he said it seemed appropriate that the deaths of the civilians on Bloody Sunday should be a matter for the Historical Enquiries Team.

Mr Spence queried why stretched police resources are to be devoted to a particular event when the unsolved murders of 211 RUC George Cross police officers are being investigated alongside more than 2,000 civilian unsolved murders through the Historical Enquiries Team.

"The ability of officers to deliver quality and timely policing across all the people of Northern Ireland will be seriously undermined if the focus on current policing need backed by adequate resources is not maintained," he said.

"The law must take its course but it should also be used equitably on behalf of all people bereaved or injured as a result of terrorism who have yet to see justice."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph