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.
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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.
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.
“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.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital