Bloody Sunday Inquiry ends

After 434 days, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry has ended with a closing statement by the inquiry’s counsel.

Lord Saville and two colleagues oversaw the inquiry into the killing of 13 unarmed civilians and the wounding of 14 during a civil rights march by British soldiers in Derry on January 30th, 1972. They are expected to issue a report next summer.

The inquiry drew to an end after a two-day closing statement by tribunal counsel, Christopher Clarke QC.

His statement came after the former leader of the Official IRA in 1972, Johnny White, did not give evidence due to illness.

To symbolically mark the formal closure of the inquiry’s hearings, the families of the Bloody Sunday dead, as well as several of the 14 people who were wounded on the day, held a candlelight procession from the Guildhall, where the inquiry sat, to the scene of the killings in the Bogside.

Mr Clarke thanked the people of Derry for accommodating and welcoming the inquiry to the city.

“I hope and believe that the process itself has already played a part in enabling people to come to terms with the events of that day, in holding to account those whose decisions, actions or inactions contributed to what happened and, whatever the difficulty of determining the roles of individual soldiers, of advancing our understanding of what happened on that day, as I doubt not will become apparent in the tribunal’s report,” he said.

In his broad, and deliberately inconclusive, closing statement, Mr Clarke said the inquiry should stand back from the material and the issues to focus on the central question.

“Why and how did 13 people come to be killed and 14 to be wounded within something like 10 minutes on January 30th, 1972, in this city?” he asked.

He said one of the main issues to consider was whether the “tragedy of Bloody Sunday” was caused by a “risky” plan for the day which was drawn up by the British Army, by someone who had no clear idea of what the soldiers planned to do when they were deployed.

Mr Clarke said that following evidence from 931 witnesses, among them civilians, politicians, soldiers, police officers and intelligence officers, there was still no indication from the soldiers as to who shot who.

He also said that in some cases, there was no clear match between any of the targets described by the soldiers and any of the known casualties.

Mr Clarke raised the possibility that four nail-bombs found on the body of one of the 13 people shot dead in Derry on January 30th, 1972, had been planted.

He said it was difficult to believe that all of the civilian witnesses who had attended to Mr Donaghy after he’d been shot had failed to see the nail-bombs.

Mr Clarke also said the inquiry would have to determine if there were additional casualties to the 27 people who were shot by British troops on Bloody Sunday.

One of Derry’s Bloody Sunday relatives has called on the people of the city to maintain a watchful eye in the run-up to the publication of the report by Lord Saville.

Liam Wray predicted that it could be up to a year before the final Saville report is delivered.

“This Inquiry was established six years ago and has been hearing evidence for more than three years. Every deadline set by the inquiry has been pushed back so I would be surprised if the report is ready before this time next year but that is only my thoughts on the matter,” he said.

Mr Wray said it was imperative that the people of Derry now maintained a watchful eye to ensure that the final goal of truth was achieved.

“The people of this city have told the truth and have put a lot into this inquiry. It is important that they remain vigilant to the end,” he said.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News