Belfast Telegraph

Bikers roll into Stormont and London against Bloody Sunday prosecution

By Tony Diver

Bikers took part in protests in Belfast and London yesterday in a show of support for a soldier being prosecuted over Bloody Sunday.

A group rode to Stormont as a similar Rolling Thunder demonstration took place in central London.

Here, around 80 riders, many of them military veterans, set off from Cultra, Co Down, and arrived at Stormont at 1.30pm.

Horns blasted and engines revved as the bikers rode up the mile-long Prince of Wales Avenue. Parachute Regiment flags flew from some of the bikes.

Soldier F is to be charged with murdering two people after troops opened fire on civil rights demonstrators in January 1972.

The Saville Inquiry found all 14 victims of Bloody Sunday were innocent and died when the Parachute Regiment lost control that day.

After the ruling, Prime Minister David Cameron issued a state apology in the House of Commons, describing the Army's actions as "unjustified and unjustifiable".

Veterans reacted angrily to the decision to take legal action decades after the bloodshed. The organisers of the Rolling Thunder event said their protest is directed against the Government rather than the victims' families.

One veteran who took part in the protest ride to Stormont fears more prosecutions could follow.

The man, who gave his name as Tony, said he was involved in an incident during the Troubles and felt he was dealt with fairly at the time. But he queried whether he should now expect a knock at his door.

Tony said: "Where will it end? We have the flags that say we support Soldier F but it is not only about Soldier F, it's soldier a, b, c... and all after.

"Where are they going to go then, once they have finished with the alphabet, where will it end?

"We are saying that we want it to stop here. Soldiers carried out their duty at the time, they did as they were told.

Motorcyclists take part in the Rolling Thunder ride protest in London
Motorcyclists take part in the Rolling Thunder ride protest in London
Motorcyclists take part in the Rolling Thunder ride protest in Belfast, riding toward the Stormont buildings

"I was involved in an incident whereby I was detained, interviewed and released.

"I believe I was dealt with justly at the time. Do I sit and wait for 20 years for a knock at the door?

"And the rest of these gentlemen, mostly veterans, are they the same - just sit and wait for a knock at the door?"

In London, organisers said up to 11,000 bikers met on Park Lane before riding through the capital to Parliament Square and on to Trafalgar Square.

The protest was conceived when Harry Wragg (56) posted a video on Facebook calling for Soldier F not to be prosecuted.

The immunity granted to members of the IRA under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 should extend to soldiers who fought in the Troubles, he said.

Biker groups from around the UK welcomed Mr Wragg's suggestion of a procession of motorbikes in London to protest against Soldier F's prosecution.

The protest's journey took in Parliament Street and Whitehall and passed the Cenotaph.

Mr Wragg said: "I had a bit of a rant on Facebook saying how disgusting it was really, over Soldier F. I made a statement saying 'What about a few of us riding to London, to make a noisy protest?' There are 11,000-plus bikes. We've just come together. And the best thing for me is that it's combined services."

The Ministry of Defence said the charges have been brought by the NI Public Prosecution Service, which is independent. A Government spokesman said: "We are indebted to the soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. Although the decision to prosecute was taken by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, which is independent from Government, we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected."

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