The sentencing of a 54-year-old-man to three months in jail for contempt of the Bloddy Sunday Inquiry by refusing to attend and give evidence has been called a “scandal” by the brother of a victim of the British massacre.
When the sentence was handed down in the High Court in Belfast, the Derry man -- known as ‘PIRA 9’ -- stood up and shouted at the two judges: “I’m the only man to be punished for Bloody Sunday. It’s a disgrace.”
The tribunal had received evidence from Paddy Ward that the man had been involved in the events of Bloody Sunday on January 31 1972 when British paratroopers shot dead 13 men.
The evidence presented was that the man had been seen firing at soldiers and that others gave him covering fire to enable him to make his escape.
Defence lawyer John Coyle referred to a letter written to the inquiry by a solicitor quoting ‘PIRA 9’ as saying that Mr Ward’s evidence contained such a degree of in-accuracy that it did not merit the dignity of a response.
“His view is that the evidence was nonsense - a farrago of falsehoods,” Mr Coyle said.
The sentence has provoked outrage in Derry where John Kelly - a brother of Bloody Sunday victim, Michael - said it was a “scandal.”
Mr Kelly said: “The fact is that a Derry man is going to jail over Bloody Sunday in spite of the way some British politicians and former soldiers treated the tribunal.”
Mr Kelly pointed out that others had refused to answer questions, while one former Parachute Regiment soldier, refused to enter the witness box.
Mr Kelly said although the families had always appealed to everyone with information to come forward, it was wrong to send a man to prison for failing to do so.
Derry Sinn Féin assembly member Raymond McCartney said PIRA 9 had taken a conscious decision that the Inquiry would not serve the best interests of the Bloody Sunday victims.
“The fact that the Derry republican sentenced in Belfast today for refusing to appear before the Saville Inquiry is the only person to be imprisoned as a result of the events in Derry in 1972 is an absolute disgrace,” Mr McCartney said.