Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: PPS Bloody Sunday decision another harrowing day on the journey to truth and justice

Editor's Viewpoint

There were no winners in the City Hotel in Londonderry yesterday when the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that only one ex-paratrooper would face murder charges over the events of Bloody Sunday when 13 civil rights protesters were shot dead by soldiers (another died some time later from injuries received on the day).

For the relatives of those killed and injured who had been buoyed by speculation that a number of soldiers could end up in the dock, there was huge disappointment that in some cases turned to anger. Two families will get the justice they crave but they feel the hurt of the other families.

The military may be relieved that only one soldier is to be prosecuted, but that for the MoD and other veterans, is one soldier too many. Their argument is that known terrorists got out of jail early in spite of involvement in heinous crimes and others were given virtual immunity through the issuing of the notorious On The Run letters, yet elderly former soldiers are still being pursued.

In the midst of the conflicting arguments it should not be forgotten that the survivors and bereaved of Bloody Sunday feel a grave sense of injustice. They sat beneath a banner yesterday bearing former PM David Cameron's description of the deaths as "unjustified and unjustifiable".

Given that comment and Mr Cameron's unqualified apology for what happened 47 years ago, it is easy to understand why the survivors and families want to see the perpetrators prosecuted. To them the pursuit of justice seems undeniable. And, as lay people, they find it difficult to equate what they know and what was revealed in the Saville Inquiry with the DPP's inability to find sufficient evidence to bring charges against other soldiers as well as two former Official IRA members who are said to have opened fire on that day.

That, inevitably, again raises questions about how Northern Ireland can deal with the tragic legacy of the Troubles. The Bloody Sunday families, like those in Omagh, have learned more about their loved ones' deaths than the thousands of other families still waiting to learn the truth about why their loved ones died.

If it proves difficult to satisfy the families of such a high profile and minutely examined incident as Bloody Sunday in their demand for justice, how much more unlikely is it that families in cases involving people whose names are long forgotten will obtain either truth or justice?

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Another part of this most complex problem is dealing with the perception that there is an imbalance between the energies put in by investigators in pursuing terrorists for past crimes and that in gathering evidence against former soldiers.

It cannot be said often enough that all terrorist crimes were wrong. While some members of the security forces may have breached their own rules or the ordinary rule of law and should not be immune from investigation, the vast majority acted legally. The MoD is considering ways of ensuring that soldiers are not treated unfairly and the Government is working on possible reforms to the system for dealing with legacy issues.

That is of academic interest to the Bloody Sunday families today. Having doggedly fought for over four decades to find out the truth about what happened that day they will not give up their quest to see more soldiers prosecuted. There will be many other families scattered around Northern Ireland who will empathise with them in this search for justice.

But the fact remains that the real legacy of the Troubles for many is just unrelenting pain.

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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