Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: The truth at last on a festering injustice

It took 12 years to complete, cost £195m and its final report runs to 10 volumes, yet the Saville inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday can be summed up in three words.

The actions of the paratroopers who shot dead 13 civilians - a 14th died six months later from wounds received - were "unjustified and unjustifiable". The relatives' long and courageous crusade for the truth is at an end.

Lord Saville and Mr Cameron both made it unequivocally clear that in no instance had soldiers proper reason for firing at any of the civilians killed or wounded. Not only that, but later some of them tried to cover up their actions with lies. That was a shameful day in the history of the Army in Northern Ireland, although it must also be remembered that soldiers, along with the police, helped prevent the province from descending into civil war during three decades of unremitting terrorism during which they displayed daily heroism.

The Saville report is not the end of the process. The Public Prosecution Service and the Chief Constable will now examine the findings and will have the onerous task of deciding if any of the soldiers should be prosecuted. There would seem to be a prima facie case giving the scathing criticism of the Army's behaviour on the day, but are prosecutions possible after such a passage of time and could convictions be obtained? Indeed, could the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, be prosecuted for possession of a gun on the evidence contained in the report?

Those are questions which will have to be left to the professional judgement of the PPS. The service now has a huge body of evidence in this case, the like of which does not exist in any other unsolved atrocity in Northern Ireland, on which to make that cold, clinical judgement. However if that decision is that no prosecution is possible, a line must finally be drawn under this dark chapter in our history. The relatives have what they really wanted.

Fittingly, one of the first actions of the relatives after reading the Saville report was to call on the crowd outside Derry's Guildhall to observe a minute's silence for all those killed in the Troubles. There are some 3,000 unsolved murders where relatives don't know who killed their loved ones or why. They share many of the feelings of loss, of injustice and of grief that the relatives of the Bloody Sunday dead harboured for years.

The Eames/Bradley report attempted to create a process which would help all relatives gain some closure but that report now appears to have been shelved, but it would surely be justice for all if a truth and reconciliation process could be established at which all sides of Northern Ireland's dirty war could give evidence. Saville has given justice to the dead and survivors of Bloody Sunday, but many others are still denied it.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph