Bloody Sunday soldier to be tried in Derry

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As tensions rise over the case, it has been confirmed that the only British soldier to be charged with a crime in relation to Bloody Sunday will be summonsed to appear at Derry courthouse next month.

Fourteen innocent civilians were killed and another fourteen were injured when British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights protest in Derry in 1974.

On March 14 this year, relatives of the victims were dismayed when it was announced that only one soldier out of the 18 investigated would face charges as a result of the massacre.

A former member of the Parachute Regiment, known only as ‘Soldier F’ will be formally charged with two counts of murder in relation to two of the killings, those of James Wray and William McKinney. He will also face four counts of attempted murder in relation to the late Patrick O’Donnell and Michael Quinn, Joseph Friel and Joseph Mahon.

‘Soldier F’ gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday in 2003 and admitted he had fired a total of 13 shots. His claims that those killed and wounded were “gunmen and bombers” were rejected in the report of the inquiry, which concluded that he had fired at least at father-of-six Paddy Doherty and that he had shot Bernard McGuigan as he went to Mr Doherty’s aid.

The decision to hold the trial in Derry has been welcomed by lawyers representing the majority of relatives of those killed and wounded. The relatives had feared that pressure from military campaign groups and unionist and Tory politicians would result in the trial being held in Britain.

The family of 26-year-old William McKinney said it was important that prosecutors did not allow bogus delays to hinder the trial as has happened with other legacy cases.

“It has been a long time since evidence was first given to the Inquiry to get to this point. The important thing is that Soldier F is to be charged with the murder of our brother, Willie. I would urge the PPS not to deviate from the time scale it has set out,” said Michael McKinney.

A loyalist campaign in support of the soldier has seen banners provocatively erected in more than a dozen locations across the North.

A number of victims groups have called for the PSNI to take down the flags and banners, under hate crime legislation. However, the PSNI has actually been present when the banners have been raised and appear to have lent their tacit support to the campaign.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhe Archibald objected to one banner which reads ‘Coleraine supports Soldier F’. It was erected this week in the vicinity of the station in the County Derry town.

“This is close to shopping centres, car parks and other amenities which are used by people from across the community and visitors to the north coast,” she said.

“This banner will cause distress not only to the families of those killed on Bloody Sunday and those killed by the parachute regiment in Ballymurphy but also other victims of state violence. It should be removed immediately.”

Philip McGuigan, Sinn Féin representative in north Antrim, described a scene in Ballymoney where a banner was raised today [Saturday] as “pathetic”. Three members of the PSNI took part in raising the banner [pictured].

He said: “This banner is right outside the Jobs and Benefits Office on John Street, which is used by all sections of the community.

“It is clearly intimidatory and offensive, particularly to those who have lost loved ones as a result of state violence. Several police officers stood by and watched while this banner was put up.”

Mickey Brady, the Sinn Féin MP for Newry and Armagh, also hit out at PSNI for being on hand when a banner was erected in Armagh but did not intervene.

“It is wrong that this banner has been erected in Armagh city centre in the first instance but it is absolutely unacceptable that the PSNI stood by at the bottom of the ladder and watched while a masked man put it up,” he said.

“Incidents like this do nothing to support efforts to build community confidence in the PSNI.”

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