Reuters Londonderry/Northern Ireland
One former British soldier will be prosecuted for two murders in the “Bloody Sunday” killings of 13 unarmed Catholic civil rights marchers in Londonderry by British paratroopers in 1972 — one of the most notorious incidents of the Northern Ireland conflict.
The evidence was insufficient to charge 16 other former soldiers, Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service said yesterday.
Soldiers from the elite Parachute Regiment opened fire on Sunday, January 30, 1972, during an unauthorised march in the Bogside, a nationalist area of Londonderry.
They killed 13 people and wounded 14 others, one of whom died later.
A judicial inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday, which took place at the height of Northern Ireland’s 30-year sectarian conflict, said in 2010 the victims were innocent and had posed no threat to the military.
It was the worst single shooting incident of “The Troubles”, although several bomb attacks by rival militant groups claimed higher death tolls, and yesterday’s decision reignites the controversy.
The prosecutor announced yesterday that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute “Soldier F” for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.
But “in respect of the other 18 suspects, including 16 former soldiers and two alleged Official IRA members, it has been concluded that the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction,” a prosecutor’s statement said.
Victim’s families said they were disappointed by the decision.
Their lawyers said they would challenge in the high court any prosecutorial decision that did not withstand scrutiny.
“We would like to remind everyone that no prosecution or if it comes to it no conviction does not mean not guilty, it does not mean that no crime was committed, it does not mean that those soldiers acted in a dignified and appropriate way,” Mickey McKinney, brother to one of the victims, told a news conference.
Before a prosecutor’s service briefing at a Londonderry hotel, the families marched from the Bogside and sang civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome”.
Linda Nash, the brother of William Nash, a 19-year-old killed on the day, was tearful when she emerged from the hotel. Veteran civil rights campaigner Eamonn McCann’s hands shook as he comforted her.