Belfast Telegraph

Prosecutors to reveal whether Bloody Sunday soldiers will face charges

Thirteen protesters died in the civil-rights demonstration in 1972.

A mural in the Bogside area of Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly waving a blood-soaked handkerchief (Brian Lawless/PA)
A mural in the Bogside area of Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly waving a blood-soaked handkerchief (Brian Lawless/PA)

Seventeen former British soldiers will hear later today if they are to be prosecuted for opening fire on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland.

The deaths of 13 innocent civil rights demonstrators in Londonderry almost half a century ago helped galvanise support for the Provisional IRA early in the Troubles.

Eight of those killed during Bloody Sunday – (top row) Patrick Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, John Duddy and Gerald Donaghey, (bottom row) Gerard McKinney, Jim Wray, William McKinney and John Young (Bloody Sunday Trust/PA)
Eight of those killed during Bloody Sunday – (top row) Patrick Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, John Duddy and Gerald Donaghey, (bottom row) Gerard McKinney, Jim Wray, William McKinney and John Young (Bloody Sunday Trust/PA)

An image of a Catholic priest waving a blood-stained handkerchief as he tried to help a victim to safety on January 30 1972 went around the world.

Former members of the support company of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment are facing possible charges from the Public Prosecution Service.

They could include counts of murder, attempted murder and causing grievous injury with intent.

Soldiers had been sent into the Bogside nationalist housing estate to deal with riots which followed a Derry march defying a ban on public processions.

As well as the 13 who died, a total of 15 others were shot and injured. One of the injured died months later from an inoperable tumour and some consider him the 14th fatality.

A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by the dead victims’ families and thus began a campaign for a new public inquiry.

Families of the dead sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed.

A fresh probe was eventually ordered by former prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

A man receiving attention during the Bloody Sunay shooting in Londonderry (PA Archive)
A man receiving attention during the Bloody Sunay shooting in Londonderry (PA Archive)

A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that the troops killed peaceful protesters and seriously criticised the decision to send them into the Bogside estate in vehicles.

The Saville report used the soldiers’ ciphers to identify some its authors were sure fired lethal shots. In other cases they recorded those who had probably done so.

Following the inquiry’s conclusion in 2010, then prime minister David Cameron said the killings were unjustified and unjustifiable.

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

An investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One former soldier has since died.

Four other soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.

A decision is also due to be taken on Thursday by the PPS as to whether to charge two Official IRA suspects present on the day.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.

On Thursday morning the families will gather outside The Museum of Free Derry, just yards from where the killings took place 47 years ago, and march together to a city centre hotel to hear whether charges will be brought.

Alan Barry, from the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans campaign group, said he feared the paratroopers would face charges, accusing the justice system in Northern Ireland of being one-sided.

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