Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: True humanity from Army victim's family

In today's paper there is a compelling and moving interview with Kevin McKinney, whose father Gerard was killed on Bloody Sunday
In today's paper there is a compelling and moving interview with Kevin McKinney, whose father Gerard was killed on Bloody Sunday

Editor's Viewpoint

In today's paper there is a compelling and moving interview with Kevin McKinney, whose father Gerard was killed on Bloody Sunday.

He says there is no point jailing soldiers of the Parachute Regiment who were involved that day, even if they are convicted.

Kevin says he and other members of his family have forgiven the soldier who killed his father, and it is God, not a court of law, they will have to answer to.

This is a remarkably compassionate and thoughtful intervention by Mr McKinney in the vexed debate as to whether soldiers should face charges.

Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron is no doubt aware that whatever decision he reaches on these particularly difficult cases, it is bound to be controversial.

Some will feel strongly that "murder is murder", for which there is currently no statute of limitations.

Others, including Kevin McKinney and his sister Regina McLaughlin, regard the potential jailing of men now in their 60s and 70s as excessive, and offering no real prospect of closure on a distressing episode of our history.

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Regina's recent comments are worth recalling: "What's the point in putting these soldiers in jail? These soldiers are old men now. They are dying, and some have died already. I believe that they will have to answer to God for what they did."

Such words are impressive, but it should also be stressed that Britain's response to the Bloody Sunday massacre has been lamentable.

The Widgery Tribunal, set up in the immediate aftermath, was seen widely as a British Establishment whitewash.

It took another 26 years for Prime Minister Tony Blair to announce the Saville Inquiry, and yet another 12 for Lord Saville to prompt another Prime Minister, David Cameron, to offer a formal state apology for the "unjustified and unjustifiable" killings of the 14 innocent victims.

In future Army veterans may be protected from prosecution for alleged historic abuses under plans for a 10-year limit on new cases.

As to whether any good for the public interest would come from jailing the soldiers, the last words should come from Regina.

"If they were ever going to prison, it should have happened a long time ago.

"My mother forgives them. I forgive them.

"My father would have forgiven them too. I know he would."

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