Anger and outrage over Bloody Sunday charges
IS JUSTICE SERVED BY ACCUSING SOLDIER OF MURDER AFTER 47 YEARS?
Sunday, Jan. 30, 1972. Londonderry in Northern Ireland is about to become a turning point in “The Troubles.” British paratroopers will fire on a group of protesters, killing 13.
In the days and weeks following, the British Embassy in Dublin would be firebombed, tens of thousands of people would protest throughout Ireland, recruits would flood into the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the political atmosphere between Britain and Ireland would be poisoned for decades.
Now, 47 years later, a British paratrooper, known only as Soldier F, has been charged with two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder in connection with the shootings.
But the decision has pleased no one. Families of those killed believe that if justice is to be done then more soldiers need to be charged.
“We felt like we were being stabbed in the heart all over again,” said Gerry Duddy, the brother of 17-year-old Jackie Duddy who was the first to die on Bloody Sunday. Jackie Duddy’s agony, a dying young man being carried through the streets lead by Fr. Edward Daly waving a bloodied handkerchief, was captured on camera and is now a prominent mural in Londonderry.
“We always said that a victory for one family in securing a prosecution would be a success for all, but right now it’s very hard to come to terms with what has just happened,” said Gerry Duddy.
“For 47 years we have fought for justice. I will never accept there’s not enough evidence to convict my brother’s murderer. I was with Jackie that day and I still get flashbacks; we will battle on and pursue these soldiers through the courts until they are all called to account.”
But veterans who served in Northern Ireland during the height of “The Troubles” — when the IRA was shooting soldiers and bombing civilians — are outraged at what they see as a double standard.
As part of the 1998 Good Fr i d ay Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, about 200 IRA fugitives, believed to be behind a series of terrorists attacks, were sent so-called “comfort letters” assuring them they were no longer suspects.
Alan Barry, founder of Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans, told the Daily Mail, “Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, veterans are being left open to prosecution while terrorists have been cleansed of their past crimes.”
The former Grenadier Guard, who served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, added, “It’s all about appeasement: appeasing the IRA, appeasing Sinn Fein, and if that means throwing one or two veterans under a bus then that’s what they’ll do.
“It’s a disgrace. How old is he? He’ll be in his 70s. I want to know why the IRA aren’t being prosecuted.”
Former foreign minister Boris Johnson echoed that sentiment when he wrote in The Daily Telegraph, “What kind of a world is it — you may ask — where we can put former squaddies in the dock for murder, and simultaneously tell IRA killers that they can get away with it? Are we really proposing to send old soldiers to die in jail — after we gave dozens of wanted terrorists a get-outof-jail-free card under the Good Friday Agreement? Is that balanced? Is that fair?”
But he said his real objection to charging former soldiers over Bloody Sunday was that after two public inquiries no new evidence had emerged, or new DNA, or ballistic evidence.
“The objective is not to get to the truth of this episode, or any other,” he wrote. “It will achieve nothing except the misery of a few old men.
“The whole thing is a dis- grace, and should be disposed of as quietly and as speedily as possible.”
Soldier F, who joined the Parachute Regiment in 1966 and was a lance corporal at the time of the killings, 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.
Sixteen other soldiers under investigation will not face prosecution in the shootings after prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to try them. Two alleged Official IRA men were also suspects but were not charged.
The charges announced Thursday came more than two years after police referred their findings to prosecutors and almost nine years after the conclusion of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
The inquiry — conducted by Britain’s Lord Saville and set up after an earlier inquiry was labelled a whitewash — found that the British soldiers had opened fire without justification at unarmed, fleeing civilians and then lied about it for decades. Those findings refuted an initial investigation that took place soon after the slayings, which branded the demonstrators as IRA bombers and gunmen.
In 2003 testimony to the Saville Inquiry, Soldier F admitted to firing 13 rounds that day as protesters made their way toward the city centre.
Joshusa Rozenberg, a lawyer, told BBC that Soldier F could argue abuse of process and unfair treatment as a defence, because no other soldiers have been prosecuted.
Soldier F’s legal costs, as well as welfare support, will be paid by the British government.
“We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland,” UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said. “The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance.”
Julieann Camphill stands beside the Bloody Sunday mural depicting the body of her uncle Jackie Duddy being carried away after his shooting in the Rossville Street area where soldiers opened fire on civil rights marchers.
A relative holds a portrait Thursday of Jackie Duddy, one of the 13 killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry (Londonderry) following the announcement that a former British soldier will be charged with murder over the 1972 killings.