Belfast Telegraph

Suzanne Breen on Bloody Sunday: Government still shamefully dragging its feet on past

Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

One soldier. A single member of the Parachute Regiment that shot dead 13 innocents on Bloody Sunday prosecuted after almost half a century of campaigning.

The wheels of justice turned slowly for two families, and for the other 11 they didn't turn at all. Given all we know about Bloody Sunday - the lies and cover-up that went to the top of the military and political establishment - some will see that solitary soldier as a sacrificial lamb.

No wonder there was disbelief, dismay, and deflation in the Guildhall yesterday as the Director of Public Prosecutions announced 'no prosecution' time and time again, The Bloody Sunday families are of course by no means unique in Northern Ireland in faiing to secure justice. They have never claimed to be. In every town and village, there are husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren yet to secure even a proper police investigation into what happened their loved one.

The suffering of the bereaved and injured in the non-headline grabbing atrocities is equally acute. But let nobody envy the Bloody Sunday families' experience. The state hardly seems to have been rushing to hold its forces to account for the massacre.

It was two years after the Saville report was published that the PSNI launched a criminal investigation into Bloody Sunday. It was four years later that the file was passed to the PPS. It has taken a further two years for the decision on prosecutions to be announced.

Unionist politicians yesterday were divided in their response to the news that one soldier would be prosecuted. Some like the UUP's Doug Beattie believe the decision must be respected and nobody is above the law. Others claim there is too much focus on security force killings and IRA victims are being forgotten.

Let nobody dare to forget the dead of La Mon, Kingsmill or Bloody Friday. And if a shred of evidence exists to bring the perpetrators of heinous acts before the courts let it be pursued.

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Secret deals behind closed doors which resulted in comfort letters for the on-the-runs flies in the face of justice.

But it is still vitally important that historic cases of state violence are addressed. The argument is made that 90% of Troubles murders were carried out by paramilitaries and only 10% by the state. But that figure grows significantly if victims of alleged collusion are included.

But even if they aren't, it's hardly a valid argument to downplay Bloody Sunday. We expect paramilitaries to murder and maim, it's what they do. We do not expect the state to kill its own citizens in broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon.

The perception that those who served in the security forces have been historically hounded isn't backed up by official figures. Thousands of loyalist and republicans have been jailed. Only four soldiers have been convicted for killings while on duty. Between them, they served a total of 10 years and they all returned to the army afterwards.

The Government has failed victims across the spectrum on legacy issues and is still shamefully dragging its feet on dealing with the past. But as a society we also have to make decisions on the way forward.

Do we want to go where the evidence leads even if one of 'our own' ends up in the dock or do we draw a line in the sand under all Troubles murders? A pick and choose approach just won't cut it anymore.

The Bloody Sunday families carried a banner reading ‘towards justice’ as they marched to Londonderry’s Guildhall on Thursday (Niall Carson/PA)
The Bloody Sunday families carried a banner reading ‘towards justice’ as they marched to Londonderry’s Guildhall on Thursday (Niall Carson/PA)
John Kelly comforts Alana Burke
Families embraced after the march (Niall Carson/PA)
A minute’s silence at the Guildhall (Niall Carson/PA)
Families of those killed in Bloody Sunday speak to the media at the Guild Hall. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Relatives march to the Guildhall (Niall Carson/PA)
Relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday after hearing the prosecution decision (Niall Carson/PA)
(PA Graphics)
Families march through the Bogside in Derry (Liam McBurney/PA)
John Kelly whose brother Michael was killed on Bloody Sunday (Niall Carson/PA)
James Wray (left) and William McKinney, who died on Bloody Sunday (PA/Bloody Sunday Trust)
The Bloody Sunday Memorial in Derry’s Bogside (Liam McBurney/PA)
Mickey McKinney looks at a photo on the wall of the Museum of Free Derry (Liam McBurney/PA)
A mural in Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly during Bloody Sunday in January 1972 (Liam McBurney/PA)
Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, towards the Guildhall 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
John McKinney holds a picture of his brother, William, as the families of those who died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, ahead of an announcement over the prosecution of 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, towards the Guildhall 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Families of those died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, towards the Guildhall 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Retransmission, amending byline. Politicians Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill (left), Elisha McCallion, MP for Foyle, (centre) and SDLP's Colum Eastwood (right) join families before a march through the Bogside in Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, ahead of an announcement over the prosecution of 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Families of those who died march through the Bogside in Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, ahead of an announcement over the prosecution of 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Families, relatives and supporters of those who died march through Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, ahead of an announcement over the prosecution of 17 former British soldiers and two former members of the Official IRA in connection with the events of Bloody Sunday in the city in January 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE Bloody Sunday Trust undated handout photos of (top row, left to right) Patrick Doherty, Bernard McGuigan, John "Jackie" Duddy and Gerald Donaghey, (bottom row, left to right) Gerard McKinney, Jim Wray, William McKinney and John Young who were killed on Bloody Sunday. Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions has announced that a 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday March 14, 2019. Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on January 30 1972, in Londonderry on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Bloody Sunday Trust/PA Wire
Families, relatives and supporters of those died gather outside the Guildhall in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, after the announcement from the Public Prosecution Service that one former paratrooper, soldier F is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Families, relatives and supporters of those died gather outside the Guildhall in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, after the announcement from the Public Prosecution Service that one former paratrooper, soldier F is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Supporters hold a posters of Edward Heath former British Prime Minister and General Sir Michael David Jackson outside the city hotel 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Linda Nash whose youngest brother William Nash died on Bloody Sunday with Eamonn McCann outside the city hotel 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
L-R Gerry Duddy, Mickey McKinney, John Kelly and the 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
John Kelly comforts Alana Burke who was injured on Bloody Sunday reacts during the press conference at the Guildhall in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, after the announcement from the Public Prosecution Service that one former paratrooper, soldier F is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
L-R Linda Nash, holds an image of their brother William Nash who was killed on Bloody Sunday, and Kate Nash holds an image of their father Alex Nash who was wounded on the day 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
A woman listens on during 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Relatives of those who died march to the Guildhall in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, after the announcement from the Public Prosecution Service that one former paratrooper, soldier F is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Two woman watch on as 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.PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday leaving a briefing with DPP Stephen Herron at the City Hotel Londonderry, Northern Ireland, after the announcement from the Public Prosecution Service that one former paratrooper, soldier F is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders during Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (left) and new Fine Gael MEP candidate Mark Durkan attending 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. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday March 14, 2019. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
John Teggart from the Ballymurphy Families speaks with Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill and SDLP's Colum Eastwood at the City Hotel in Derry. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
L-R Jean Hegarty, sister of Kevin McElhinney, John Wray, brother of James Wray, and Paddy Nash, brother of William Nash, stand for a minute's silence with the families of those who were killed, ahead of a press conference inside the Guildhall in Londonderry. Liam McBurney/PA Wire

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