Twelve years after the inquiry began, the Saville report into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry will finally be published on June 15.
The Bloody Sunday families are to be given advance access to the report in a “lock-down” situation at the city’s Guildhall hours before the report is presented to the Westminster parliament in London.
The soldiers who carried out the killings are to be granted similar early access to the report at the Ministry of Defence’s headquarters in London.
Thirteen people died after paratroopers opened fire during a civil rights march in the city on 30 January 1972. Another person died of his injuries some time later.
The original inquiry into the incident, carried out by then UK Lord Chief Justice Lord Widgery, was a whitewash which exonerated the soldiers and speculated that a number of the dead had been attacking the army.
The Saville Tribunal was ordered by then British prime minister Tony Blair in 1998 after a long campaign by the families.
The inquiry interviewed and received statements from about 2,500 people, with 922 of these called to give oral evidence.
Tony Doherty, whose father Paddy was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said that he and the other families were confident that the report would vindicate those killed and wounded on the day.
“It will also vindicate the approach the families have taken since immediately after Bloody Sunday and since the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign was set up in 1992. We believe that all of those killed and wounded will be formally declared innocent. We know that has already been done at a political level but it is important that it must also be done at a judicial level,” he said.
Mr Doherty added, “It is important that the original Widgery Report into the killings is repudiated. We have had to live with the wrongs of that report for almost 40 years and that has to be put right. Personally speaking I have been waiting for this moment since I was nine years of age and now I feel a degree of trepidation and nervousness but also a sense of relief”, he said.
Derry’s Guildhall will be the centre of activities while a press centre is expected to be be set up at the nearby Tower Museum to cater for the anticipated international media focus.
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed, said family members were delighted the report would be made public on June 15th.
“At long last we have a date after all the delays,” he said. “It will be a massive day, not only for the families but for the whole of Derry. A lot of people were there that day and lived through it and this is very important to them too.”
Mr Kelly said he was confident the Saville Inquiry’s findings would include a full declaration of innocence for the dead. “Hopefully it will bring some element of closure, but depends on what he says,” he said. “Lord Saville holds the future for all of us in what he says in that report.”
He said he was not after an apology from the state. “An apology has never come into it, we just want the government to acknowledge that government murder was carried out on the streets of Derry that day.”
Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness welcomed the setting of a date for publication. He said: “The families of those murdered on Bloody Sunday have fought a long and difficult campaign for the truth about the events in Derry 38 years ago. I welcome the fact that the British government have now announced that the Saville Report will be given to the families and published on June 15th.
“The lies of Widgery need to be exposed and buried and the truth of what happened when the British parachute regiment came to Derry and murdered 14 people on our street needs to be told.”