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Don't prejudge soldier's arrest

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 11/11/2015

Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday

The long-running story of Bloody Sunday has taken a dramatic new twist with the announcement that a soldier who took part in the events of that terrible day is now under arrest.

However, it is important to view this development with caution. The man, known as "Soldier J" has not yet been charged with murder or any other offence, and we must wait for the legal process to take its course.

Nevertheless, an important precedent has been taken, in that he is the first soldier from the Bloody Sunday shootings to be arrested, and the arrest of others cannot be ruled out.

Apart from the legal considerations, this is also about a deeply human tragedy on January 30, 1972.

After the rank injustice of the Widgery Tribunal; the Saville Report and the unequivocal apology from the Prime Minister David Cameron went a very long way to providing closure on this deeply distressing episode.

Yet it is not difficult to understand why the families of the victims have been looking for justice, as well as an apology.

Only people made of stone would fail to be moved by the words of Kate Nash, whose brother was shot dead and her father wounded on Bloody Sunday.

Reacting to the news of the arrest, she said: "I started to shake. I couldn't believe it. I became very emotional. To see a soldier even being questioned has truly shocked me. I never thought it would get to this. There is a flicker of hope. It's a very positive step."

Not surprisingly, there are other voices who object strongly to the latest turn of events.

The outspoken David McNarry of Ukip, in a typically blunt and unhelpful comment, has described the news as an "absolute disgrace" and asks, with no justification: "Is this now part of the grubby deal emerging from Stormont Castle and DUP/Sinn Fein HQ?"

The South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan of the UUP has also weighed in, perhaps unwisely, and has expressed his "extreme" concern at how former Service personnel are being treated.

There is no point in using this arrest as a political football, and those who try to do so may make the situation even more complex.

The manifest wrong which was wrought on the Nash and other families on Bloody Friday cries out for justice. Let the law take its course, and people on all sides should abide by the outcome, either way.

Belfast Telegraph

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