Belfast Telegraph

Bloody Sunday families' statement in full - following PPS decision

Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, ahead of the announcement as to whether 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA will be prosecuted in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972.
Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, ahead of the announcement as to whether 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA will be prosecuted in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972.

The Bloody Sunday families have welcomed the prosecution of one soldier involved in the 1972 attacks as a victory but described the decision not to prosecute more as a "terrible disappointment".

"We have walked a long journey since our fathers and brothers were brutally slaughtered on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday. Over that passage of time all of the parents of the deceased have died. We are here to take their place," said John Kelly.

"Bloody Sunday was not just a wanton act carried out by a trained army against defenceless civil rights activists. It also created a deep legacy of hurt and injustice and deepened and prolonged a bloody conflict unimaginable even in those dark winter days of 1972."

At a press conference in the Guildhall in the city on Thursday the families said the full cost of Bloody Sunday "cannot be measured just in terms of those who suffered that day but must also be measured in terms of those who suffered because of that terrible day".

(PA Graphics)

"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.

"When the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign was launched in 1992 we had three clear demands – to have the Widgery whitewash overturned and replaced by an independent inquiry; to gain a formal acknowledgement of the innocence of all our loved ones, and to prosecute.

"With today’s news, we now achieve our third aim.

"However, we have also faced the disappointing news that in some cases there will not be prosecutions, and we are mindful of those families who received that news today.

"We would like to remind everyone that no prosecution, or if it comes to it, no conviction, does not mean not guilty. It does not mean that no crime was committed. It does not mean that those soldiers acted “in a dignified and appropriate way.”

Families of those who were killed hold a press conference inside the Guildhall in Londonderry after the Public Prosecution Service announced that one solider will face prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell on Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972 (PA)

"It simply means that if these crimes had been investigated properly when they happened, and evidence gathered at the time, then the outcome would have been different.

"We note the Saville Report’s findings on the actions of soldiers that day, that all the casualties were either “the intended targets of the soldiers or the result of shots fired indiscriminately at people”; that no soldiers “fired in response to attacks or threatened attacks”; that no soldiers fired “in a state of fear or panic” and that soldiers opened fire“either in the belief that no-one in the areas towards which they respectively fired was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, or not caring whether or not anyone there was posing such a threat”. These are not the sort of comments levelled at innocent people.

Two people embrace outside the City Hotel on March 14, 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

"The passage of time has made charges difficult in this case, and in other cases. But the passage of time should not be used as a form of blanket immunity to block proper investigations. Everyone deserves justice, including those whose loved ones were murdered by the British state. There can be no statute of limitations used to deny justice, no new laws to protect state killers.

"But, for us here today, it is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us. We stand in full solidarity with those of us whose loved-one’s death or injury has not been included in the announcement of prosecutions. We also stand in complete solidarity with the hundreds of families who have had to endure decades without an inquest, without a criminal investigation and who have been left to struggle for their basic human right to justice. We hope our campaign continues to be an inspiration to them.

"Today’s decision, although 47 years overdue, was necessary if we are to uphold the rule of law and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes.

Families of those killed during Bloody Sunday march begin their march on March 14, 2019 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

"And while we as a group of families and individuals may have differing views on whether or not the soldiers who carried out the shootings should face jail, or how long they should spend in jail, we are all agreed that they should face the due process of the law.

"And they should do so in public. The very few British soldiers that were charged during the conflict here were named, and the same should apply to those being charged now. Killers should not benefit from anonymity. 

"We maintain that key individuals in the army, in politics and beyond, should also be held to account for their actions on that day and afterwards. This affront must also be rectified if justice is to be truly done, and seen to be done.

"If the police officer in charge on the day of the Hillsborough tragedy can face prosecution then so too can those who were in charge on Bloody Sunday. There cannot be one law for the military and political elite and one law for others."

The families called on the prosecution service to complete its process on if anyone should be charged with perjury. They also called on the Attorney General to examine the recent comment of the Secretary of State who said Troubles soldiers actions were "not crimes". She later apologised and retracted her comments. 

"There should be no further delay in dealing with the outstanding demand of the families of Bloody Sunday and the people of Derry. We call on all of those who will administer the next stage to move with all speed to bring this to a conclusion. We call on all involved to cooperate fully and not indulge in any more delaying tactics.

"The dead cannot cry out for justice, it is the duty of the living to do so for them. We have cried out for them for many years, and now we have succeeded for them.

"Do not deny us justice any longer."

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