Controversy either way: Bloody Sunday report due
Channel 4 News 06/06/10 see also at
Channel 4 News Northern Irish affairs commentator Eamon Mallie says a huge amount is at stake ahead of the publication on 15 June of the long-awaited findings of the inquiry into the Bloody Sunday killings.
There is close to paranoia in government circles that the findings of the Bloody Sunday report might leak ahead of publication.
Thirteen civil rights protesters were shot dead by members of the parachute regiment in Derry’s Bogside district on 30 January, 1972. Another man died four and a half months later reportedly due to injuries sustained in the attack.
In 1998, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair invited Lord Saville to carry out an investigation into the circumstances of the controversial killings.
And now the Northern Ireland Office is going to extraordinary lengths ahead of publication day on 15 June, to prioritise the dignity of the families who lost loved ones and the soldiers against whom nationalists have directed blame all down the years.
The respective legal teams are being given access to the report seven hours ahead of the Prime Minister’s House of Commons statement. The families will get the report five hours before publication. The media will be strip-searched on arrival at Derry’s City Hotel, with all means of communication taken from them, as they are locked away one hour before David Cameron rises to his feet to address MPs. The media will then be furnished with a sixty page summary of Lord Saville’s report – it will be impossible to digest 5,000 pages in one hour.
Any leaking of the report would put the cat among the pigeons big time.
I advisedly refer to the possibility of a leak as ‘a housekeeping matter’ when set against the import which will attach to the substance of the report. The findings of Saville will be controversial come what may. The fact of the matter is that nearly forty years on Northern Ireland remains a very divided society.
The consensus in the Catholic Nationalist Community would be that innocent people were murdered on the streets of Derry by British soldiers. In the opinion of most Unionist politicians like local MP Gregory Campbell, there would be a contrary view.
Reputations on the line
Big reputations are at stake within the establishment. Army personnel on the streets of Derry on that fatal Sunday went on to hold some of the most senior posts in the MOD and in the security services. Some of these people have since died or have retired. When one considers Saville’s possible conclusions, nightmare scenarios surface immediately.
Should he adjudicate ‘unlawful killing’ in each and every instance, the MOD is immediately in the dock. Put yourself in the shoes of the foot soldiers who believed they were simply obeying orders on the said day. Should Judge Saville come up with a split result arguing ‘unlawful killing’ in cases a, b, c, but not in cases d, e, f, etc, one can imagine the uproar and residual anger among families after all these years.
An “appalling vista”
Lord Denning, a former Master of the Rolls, once spoke of “an appalling vista” arising from an investigation into The Birmingham Six court case involving Irish subjects accused of planting bombs in Birmingham pubs in November 1974. Denning deemed the idea that the court findings might be wrong as unthinkable in sending the accused down for life. All six accused were later freed having spent years in gaol having been wrongly convicted.
Saville, a learned judge, has spent over a decade and close on £200m to come up with a correct finding and the world’s eyes will be on his report on 15 June. The Israeli attack on the Gaza aid workers will only serve to sharpen the focus on the Bloody Sunday report.
38 years after Bloody Sunday, soldiers face growing fear of murder charges
Mail Online 06/06/10 see also at
Soldiers and officers involved in Bloody Sunday could face prosecution and even murder charges over the events of nearly 40 years ago following the long-awaited verdict of the official inquiry.
The investigation, launched by then Prime Minister Tony Blair, is due to release its final report after 11 years of hearings and lengthy delays that cost the taxpayer more than £200 million.
Yesterday, sources in Northern Ireland claimed inquiry chairman Lord Saville’s conclusions would be ‘very bad’ for the Army and lead to files on the actions of soldiers and their officers being referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Lord Saville has been examining what happen in Londonderry on January 30, 1972 when 14 civilians were shot dead by paratroopers during a banned civil rights march – amid claims that IRA snipers had attacked the troops.
Mr Blair set up the investigation in January 1998 and it heard its first oral evidence in November 2000, with soldiers allowed to give testimony anonymously because of fears for their safety.
Its 5,000-page report will be published on June 15. In what became known to Republicans as the Bogside Massacre, 27 protesters were shot by members of the Parachute Regiment, with 13 men, including seven teenagers, killed and another man dying from his wounds four-and-a-half months later.
Two protesters were injured when they were run down by Army vehicles and many witnesses, including journalists, testified that all those shot were unarmed. Five of the wounded were shot in the back.
The Northern Ireland sources suggest the inquiry will conclude that some of the killings were unlawful, leading to a legal debate over whether charges can be brought so long after the events.
An unlawful killing verdict has seemed the most likely outcome after several unlikely witnesses suggested that innocent people had been killed.
In May 2007, former Army chief General Sir Mike Jackson, who served as a Captain in the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment in Londonderry on the day of the shootings, said he had come to the conclusion that soldiers shot dead innocent people on Bloody Sunday.
Sir Mike, who also served as the Regiment’s adjutant at the time, did not take part in the shootings but took statements from soldiers who did.
He told the inquiry: ‘Far from being an attempt to rewrite history, the direction [soldiers’ statements] I received was clearly an attempt to record what had happened. Further, I had been present and had a grasp of events overall.
‘I am sure it would have been clear to me if anyone was not telling me the truth.’
Previously Sir Mike had insisted that those shot dead had been involved in IRA activity during the civil rights march.
The late RUC Chief Superintendent Frank Lagan, who was in charge of policing in the city at the time, said in evidence that he met the then commander of British land forces, General Robert Ford, and the Army’s most senior officer in Londonderry, Brigadier Pat MacLellan, on Bloody Sunday.
Ch Supt Lagan, who died in 2005, claimed General Ford ‘turned his back’ on him when he attempted to tell him that he had received a message that the marchers would not attempt to confront soldiers.
And former Army Colonel Tim Collins claimed that a rifle used by soldiers on Bloody Sunday was found during an SAS operation in Sierra Leone. The rifle had been declared ‘destroyed’ by the Ministry of Defence along with 13 of the 29 rifles fired by paratroopers on Bloody Sunday.
The Counsel to the Inquiry, Christopher Clarke QC, said it was not known which soldiers had carried out the majority of the fatal shootings.
He also criticised the Army’s planning in the days before the march, saying it was left to more junior officers by General Ford. Lawyers representing some of the families of those killed have said the evidence to the inquiry suggests some of those involved must be prosecuted.
Greg McCartney, a solicitor who represents the relatives of victim James Wray, warned that if Lord Saville did not make a finding of unlawful killing, or murder, then the inquiry would be rejected as a whitewash.
That was the fate of a tribunal conducted immediately after Bloody Sunday by Lord Widgery.
Last night a Northern Ireland office spokesman said new Secretary of State Owen Paterson had not yet received the final report.
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