A unionist election candidate has described the Bloody Sunday massacre as a “successful operation” and praised the British soldiers who killed fourteen innocent civil rights demonstrators in Derry in 1972.
John Ross, himself a former British paratrooper, also questioned the recent findings of the inquest into the separate massacre of ten civilians gunned down by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy, Belfast in 1971.
Ros is due to be a candidate for ultra hardline unionist party, ‘Traditional Unionist Voice’, at the next Stormont Assembly elections.
The Bloody Sunday Trust described the remarks as “outrageous and inflammatory”. The Derry-based trust challenged the leader of the TUV, Jim Allister, to say whether he believed John Ross is “fit to be a candidate” in the Stormont election.
Ross is a former platoon sergeant in the Parachute Regiment, and will stand as the TUV’s candidate in East Belfast at the next assembly election.
In a video of a 2019 demonstration outside a BBC studio, posted to YouTube by former TUV councillor Jolene Bunting, Ross describes Bloody Sunday as a “successful operation”.
“I make no apology for saying it, 1 Para carried out a very successful operation,” he said.
He goes on to attack Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie for criticising comments by another former paratrooper in which the soldier described Bloody Sunday as “a good operation, a job well done”.
Bloody Sunday Trust chair Tony Doherty, whose father was shot dead along with 12 others on January 30 1972, said Mr Ross’s comments were “highly insensitive and blatantly untrue”.
“Bloody Sunday has been the subject of a meticulous public inquiry which found that all those killed and wounded were innocent and that they were all shot – by Paras – who were acting without fear or panic,” he said.
“In short, they were murdered in cold blood.”
Mr Doherty said no election candidate should be “allowed to present distorted claims about victims of violence”.
“I would like to ask Mr Ross and Mr Allister which part of the military operation on Bloody Sunday was successful and what was good about it?” he said.
“In what ways was it well done? Is it simply the fact that they, the Paras, all came out alive that makes it a success, despite what they did?”
He challenged Mr Allister to say whether the remarks were “a vocal ex-Para ranting about Bloody Sunday” or a “great vote-catcher”.
However, the TUV said they would be running Ross as a candiate regardless of the scandal over his comments.
“It is not for the Bloody Sunday Trust to decide who the TUV candidate is”, they said. “They will neither choose TUV candidates nor proscribe what they can and cannot say.”