The British government is seeking to maintain a cover-up of the Bloody Sunday massacre after it was announced that only one soldier will be prosecuted for the killings.
Crown prosecutors have allowed the blame for Bloody Sunday to fall on a single ‘rogue’ or misbehaving soldier, ‘Soldier F’, who is to be charged with two murders and four attempted murders.
Other military and political personnel have been protected. By isolating and sacrificing a single soldier, prosecutors have implicitly accepted that Bloody Sunday was not an act of state terror. The Tory government of the late Edward Heath, who is believed to have given the nod for a violent ‘crackdown’ in Derry, appears to be in the clear.
For the Bloody Sunday families, many of whom had believed the end to their struggle was in sight, the news came instead as a ghoulish disappointment. After they were told of the decision, many family members were visibly shocked, and some in tears, as they arrived at the Guildhall for a press conference after they were told of the decision.
A minute’s silence was firstly held in memory of the 14 victims.
“I was going to say good morning,” said John Kelly, “but I don’t think it is.”
Mr Kelly -- whose brother Michael was killed -- said “the Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet”.
“This is not the end of it,” he said. “We will continue on and hopefully bring the rest of the perpetrators to justice.”
Speaking of his “terrible disappointment” at the decision to only prosecute a single soldier, Mr Kelly said that the families nevertheless welcomed the decision that one prosecution would take place. He said all the relatives were fully behind the families of James Wray and William McKinney, who soldier F is accused of murdering.
“Their victory is our victory,” he said, charitably. He insisted there should be no further delays in the legal process and also for a decision on perjury charges in relation to the evidence presented by the soldiers to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
Ciaran Shiels, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, said there would be further legal efforts on behalf of the other families.
“We shall ultimately challenge in the High Court, by way of judicial review, any prosecutorial decision that does not withstand scrutiny,” he said.
But he welcomed the achievement of a prosecution in the face of what he described as “unprecedented attempted political interference with the independence of the judicial process”.
The decision did not change the fact that Bloody Sunday was a massacre of innocents, said Sinn Fein’s northern leader, Michelle O’Neill.
“We share that disappointment and the sense of incredulity at this decision, given the clearly established facts about the actions of the British Army on Bloody Sunday,” she said. “But even the fact that one former soldier is to face trial is a significant achievement.”
She commended all the families and Bloody Sunday campaigners. “Your strength and your remarkable achievements have been a source of hope for so many still fighting for truth and justice,” she said. “Today is another step forward in your ongoing struggle.”
Saoradh said the token prosecution was “symptomatic of the injustice of British occupation”.
“All those who murdered and injured civilians, their commanders and those at the highest echelons of the British government that directed the Parachute Regiment to do so should be in front of an International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague,” they said.
“The Bloody Sunday ‘investigation’ by the British PPS, and we use the term investigation lightly, amounts to an effective whitewash and further demonstrates that Britain cannot be trusted to investigate itself and their murderous activities.”
Veteran campaigner and former chairman of the Bloody Sunday Trust, Eamonn McCann, called for the fight for justice to continue.
He said it was upsetting that no high-ranking British soldier will face prosecution and that all should be investigated for perjury as “not one single soldier told the truth”.
“When the full accounting comes, Bloody Sunday will express the ruthlessness of the state when it decides to put down what it sees as rebellious elements,” he said.
He also noted the immediate decision of the British government to pay the full legal costs and expenses for the defence of Soldier F, as announced by the British Minister of Defence. Gavin Williamson. also appeared to interfered in the judicial process, when he said he was saddened that protection against “spurious prosecutions” was not in place in time to derail Thursday’s announcement.
“It was the MoD that sent paratroopers into the Bogside, so they have an awful lot to answer for but there’s no sign at all that they are going to accept all that,” Mr McCann said.
“It’s one thing for David Cameron to say it’s ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’, if it was, take responsibility. His predecessor Edward Heath was a Prime Minister at the time and notoriously advised Lord Widgery, who decided to open the first inquiry, to remember that ‘in Northern Ireland we are fighting a propaganda war as well as a military war’.”
In an internet post, Mr McCann also pointed to new graffiti which has appeared on Free Derry Wall since the announcement which reads, “no justice, no peace”. He noted: “Derry responds. Without justice there can be no peace. No justice, No peace. The fight for justice for the Bloody Sunday victims continues.”