There can be no amnesty for British troops, speaker tells Bloody Sunday event
An amnesty for soldiers will not be accepted by the families of those who died in the Ballymurphy Massacre, a Bloody Sunday commemoration has heard.
A special Mass dedicated to the memory of the 14 people who died after Paratroopers opened fire on civilians in Londonderry's Bogside on January 31, 1972, was celebrated at St Mary's Church, Creggan, on Friday.
Wreaths were laid at the Bloody Sunday Memorial in Rossville Street following a prayer service attended by the relatives of those killed.
Several hundred people took part in a March for Justice organised by the Bloody Sunday March Committee.
This culminated at Free Derry Corner where Eileen McKeown whose father, Joseph Corr, was shot dead by paratroopers in the Ballymurphy massacre in August 1971, addressed the crowd.
She said that after 46 years the Ballymurphy families were now preparing for the inquests in September into the deaths of 10 of those killed in Ballymurphy, and warned they would reject any proposal to introduce an amnesty for soldiers.
Ms McKeown said: "In September, at last, the inquests into the deaths of 10 of our loved ones get under way.
"This is another significant achievement that took a long time to come but finally, direct result of many years of hard work from families, we will have our day in court.
"It will provide us with a legal process to uncover the facts about how our loved ones died.
"The attempts by the British Government to introduce an amnesty for British soldiers is totally unacceptable to the Ballymurphy families.
"This Thursday a delegation of Ballymurphy families went to Westminster to make our views known about this and we told the Chairperson of the Defence Select Committee, Julian Lewis, that an amnesty in any guise will never be acceptable to the families of the Ballymurphy Massacre.
"This is yet another attempt by the British state to stand in the way of truth and justice. And for what? To win a few votes."
A recent defence committee report favoured a controversial statue of limitations for members of the Armed Forces, coupled with a truth-recovery process to help families bereaved during the Troubles.
However, the report, published last month, stopped short of recommending the proposal for all sides during the Troubles as it "would be for the next government to decide".
The concept of an amnesty has gained traction among a number of Westminster backbenchers, who claim recent prosecutions of former British soldiers were tantamount to a "witch-hunt". However, prosecutors and police in Northern Ireland insist such allegations simply do not stand up to scrutiny, with a breakdown of figures showing no disproportionate focus on ex-security force members.
Meanwhile, the Museum of Free Derry this week hosts a poignant exhibition of shoes, called In Their Footsteps. John Kelly, whose brother Michael was among those who lost their lives 46 years ago during the Bloody Sunday Civil Rights march, said: "These shoes were gathered during the island-wide In Their Footsteps campaign for truth, with over 200 pairs donated by families bereaved in the conflict and exhibited in Dublin, London and Belfast. This year we relaunch In Their Footsteps with a call for families to contribute to this ever-growing display, highlighting the lack of progress in historic cases."