The final report into the Bloody Sunday killings will not now be ready until, at the earliest, the autumn of next year.
The chairman of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, ‘Lord’ Mark Saville, yesterday confirmed the projected publication date to relatives of the 14 people killed in a massacre by British army paratroopers in Derry, on January 30th, 1972.
In a letter to the relatives Mr Saville said earlier dates suggested by him for the publication of the report into the longest inquiry in British judicial history would not be achieved.
“We have always found it difficult, given the scale and complexity of the material with which we are dealing, to predict accurately how long it will take us to complete our task,” he wrote.
“We are, however, most anxious to ensure that any further estimate is realistic and with that in mind we now think it right to say that we expect to deliver the completed report to the secretary of state in the autumn of next year.
“I am sorry that the estimate that we gave you in May has proved to be wrong to such an extent.
“My colleagues and I are well aware of the need to complete the report as soon as possible, but we are also determined to deal fairly, accurately and thoroughly with the issues before us.”
It has been four years since closing speeches in the tribunal were heard.
Victims’ families last night called on Mr Saville to provide greater clarity over the reasons for the delay.
Michael McKinney, whose brother William was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, expressed disappointment.
“I think he could have been more specific. At present, with the bulk of the evidence being completed by February 2004, it more than likely means we won’t see the report until 2010, about six years after hearing that evidence.
“Already some of those closest to the victims, like my mother Annie and Mrs Kelly (whose son Michael was shot), have passed on. They died without getting to hear the truth and without seeing the lies of the British establishment exposed.”
Liam Wray, brother of victim Jim Wray, also called for greater clarity.
He suggested the inquiry could release its report in stages, similar to the Morris Tribunal in the 26 Counties.
“At the end of the day, I have no choice but to wait but I would like to know, is the report complete? I think it is and is the delay about checking legal matters or something like that?”
HAMILL INQUIRY BLOCKED
Meanwhile, the British Direct Ruler Shaun Woodward has declared that the terms of reference of the Robert Hamill Inquiry will not include decisions made by the Crown Prosecution Service.
The 25-year-old was beaten to death by loyalists in front of armed police in Portadown in 1997. No-one was convicted of the killing.
In July, a judge had asked Woodward to reconsider his decision not to allow evidence to be heard from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
However, the Direct Ruler said on Wednesday that the “public interest” was not served by the move. Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd slammed the decision which he said “beggars belief”.
“The Hamill family in their bid to establish the truth about the murder of Robert have had obstacle after obstacle placed in their way by the British Government,” he said.
“This is further evidence of the unwillingness of the British government to get to the truth of this killing and exposes yet again the policy of cover up by the securocrats in Britain.”