Belfast Telegraph

Political reaction: Tributes paid to Bloody Sunday families on 'difficult day'

Politicians across Northern Ireland have paid tribute to the Bloody Sunday families on a day of mixed emotions as the prosecution of one soldier was announced.

One paratrooper, 'soldier F' 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.

Sixteen other veterans and two ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were investigated, will not face prosecution for their actions in Londonderry on January 30 1972.

Relatives and supporters of the victims of the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings hold images of those who died as they march from the Bogside area of Derry. (Photo by Paul FAITH / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images
Relatives and supporters of the victims of the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings hold images of those who died as they march from the Bogside area of Derry. (Photo by Paul FAITH / AFP)PAUL FAITH/AFP/Getty Images

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill paid tribute to the families and their "long, painful" campaign for justice.

“Bloody Sunday was a massacre of innocents. Today’s decision does not change that," Ms O'Neill said.

“There is of course huge disappointment that only one former soldier has been charged with two counts of murder and four attempted murders.

“We share that disappointment and the sense of incredulity at this decision, given the clearly established facts about the actions of the British Army on Bloody Sunday."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that the lack of prosecutions was not a vindication of the actions of the British Army on Bloody Sunday.

“This campaign for truth, justice and accountability has been met with prevarication, equivocation and obstruction at every level. In sharp contrast, the unshakable dignity and solidarity of the families has been immense," the Foyle MLA said.

St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during the Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry.
St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during the Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry.
30th January 1972: An armed soldier and a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march.
A young Fr Edward Daly carries a blood-soaked hankie as he leads a group of men trying desperately to carry John 'Jackie' Duddy to safety. Duddy (17) was the first fatality of Bloody Sunday after being shot from behind by paratroopers
A young Fr Edward Daly (now Bishop Daly) carries a blood-soaked hankie as he leads a group of men trying desperately to carry John 'Jackie' Duddy to safety. Duddy (17) was the first fatality of Bloody Sunday after being shot from behind by paratroopers
Bloody Sunday
A scene showing a British paratrooper near Glenfada Park in Derry where Bloody Sunday took place.
Hugh Gilmore (third left) seen clutching his stomach as he is shot during Bloody Sunday.
Paddy Doherty, who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney, killed on Bloody Sunday.
Scenes from 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Lt Col Derek Wilford, the former commander of the members of the Parachute Regiment involved in the Bloody Sunday shootings
A protest parade in was staged in Londonderry in January to mark the 40th anniversary of Bloody Sunday
Hugh Gilmore who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Michael McDaid who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
:Bloody Sunday.
Soldiers taking cover behind their sandbagged armoured cars during Bloody Sunday
Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery in his room at the Old Bailey as he looks through his report on the "Bloody Sunday" shootings
Jim Wray who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
John Young who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
William McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Kevin McElhinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerard McKinney who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Gerald Donaghey who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Alana Burke who was eighteen when she was run over by an armoured personnel carrier on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday. January 1972
Patrick Doherty who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
Bloody Sunday. Funeral. Mrs Ita McKinney, 9 months pregnant cries behind the hearse carrying her husband James from St Mary's, Creggan. 2/2/1972.
Michael Kelly who was killed on Bloody Sunday.
A man receiving attention during the shooting incident in Londonderry, which became known as Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
Bloody Sunday. 30/1/1972
JAMES WRAY IN HIS HOME IN THE BOGSIDE DERRY HOLDING THE COAT WITH BULLIET HOLES IN THAT HIS SON ALSO CALLED JAMES WRAY WAS KILLED ON BLOODY SUNDAY
The start of a grim day in Derry. Civil Rights marchers make their way through Creggan. They defied a Government ban and headed for Guildhall Square, but were stopped by the Army in William Street. 31/1/1972
Bloody Sunday 1972
Linda Nash carries flowers with the number 14 inscribed during yesterdays annual Bloody Sunday Parade in Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 29.1.12
A memorial to those killed on Bloody Sunday in the Bogside area of Derry
The memorial to the 14 people who died on Bloody Sunday in Derry rises from among the sea of umbrellas as all the families came together in an ecumenical service. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights mark.The service included contributions from Father Michael Canny and Reverend David Latimer, left. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 29.1.12

“As Mayor of Derry, I walked proudly with the Bloody Sunday families as we received the Saville report. We will continue to stand with them as they campaign against the heinous wrongs that have been committed against them and against our community."

DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton said it had been a day of mixed emotions both for the families, but also for the soldiers.

"I do recognise there is a huge amount of disappointment from the families' perspective but also a lot of relief from the soldiers' perspective in terms of the fact they will have been living in fear over the past number of years," Mr Middleton said.

"We need to ensure there is a balance in terms of prosecution of soldiers and prosecutions of terrorists. That is something we need to take a step back on and say can we honesty say there has been fair treatment of not only terrorists who received comfort letters but those who served in the armed forces?"

UUP MLA and former British Army soldier Doug Beattie reacted to the prosecutions on Twitter, saying "there are no winners here. Just victims".

"It's important to remember their families today," he wrote.

TUV leader Jim Allister said that his thoughts were with the "innocent victims of terrorism".

“The pursuit of soldiers while terrorists continue to go scott free is now very much part of the rewrite of history," the North Antrim MLA said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said it was a day for "sympathy with the families and for respect for due process and the rule of law."

Green party leader Clare Bailey said that the Bloody Sunday families  deserved "access to justice after decades of denial".

The South Belfast MLA called for a "comprehensive and independent process" to be set up to deal with Troubles legacy issues.

In the Republic of Ireland, Tanaiste Simon Coveney said his thoughts were with the families of the victims of Bloody Sunday.

"Every civilian who died or was injured on Bloody Sunday was an innocent victim who posed no danger to anyone," the Irish Foreign Minister said.

"A decision has been made today to pursue a prosecution and it is very important that no one prejudice that process."

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that it was not a day for "knee jerk reactions" and that it was "crucial" that legacy issues were dealt with by both the Irish and British Governments.

He said that despite the lack of evidence "other mechanics can assist the families if both governments could agree to establish them".

“Notwithstanding the families’ inevitable disappointment today, the prosecution of Soldier F is significant given the denial of the British government for many years," Mr Martin said.

“The families of the victims should be honoured for their determination, dignity and continued bravery on behalf of those who were so brutally murdered and they will continue to be supported.”

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