Anger and out­rage over Bloody Sun­day charges

IS JUS­TICE SERVED BY AC­CUS­ING SOL­DIER OF MUR­DER AF­TER 47 YEARS?

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Michael hig­gins

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.”

CHARLES MC­QUIL­LAN / GETTY IM­AGES

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.

PAUL FAITH / AFP / GETTY IM­AGES

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.

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