FURY erupted after a lone veteran was charged with murder over two Bloody Sunday killings on Thursday – nearly 50 years after the tragedy.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to prosecute the unnamed Para – known as Soldier F – for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney.
He also faces charges for the attempted murder of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell, nearly 50 years ago in Londonderry.
But 16 other elderly veterans probed by cops – plus two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA – will face no action due to “insufficient evidence”.
The charges come despite the vents of Bloody Sunday being subject to a multi-million pound public inquiry.
And scores of IRA suspects have escaped prosecution for terrorist atrocities after being given “comfort” letters making them immune from charges following the Northern ireland peace proccess.
On Thursday night campaigning MP and former Army officer Johnny Mercer branded the decision to charge Soldier F “a disgrace.”
He was backed by another former Army officer turned MP Leo Docherty, who said: “This is bitterly disappointing.
“It’s shameful that the Government has not acted to legislate to prevent this.”
Former Colonel Tim Collins branded the prosecution a “stunt”, saying:
“It’s a political stunt.
“It’s not about the families, it’s politics.”
SOLDIER F was on duty in the flashpoint city of Londonderry for the first time when he was caught up in Bloody Sunday.
But 30 years later, he told the Saville Inquiry he remembered little of the events that unfolded.
He admitted firing 13 rounds and agreed he killed four people but denied murdering them.
Soldier F joined the Parachute Regiment in 1966 and is believed to have left the Army in 1988.
Former SAS legend Andy McNab, said: “With everything that has gone before it, it became impossible for someone not to get charged.
“But it feels like an injustice, and now he’s got an avalanche coming down on him.
“Meanwhile members of the Provisional IRA have been getting away with murder, literally murder, for years.
“This does not feel fair, it feels like a political trick.”
Soldier F, of 1 Para, fired 13 rounds on the day and admitted killing four – but denied murder.
James Wray, 22, was shot twice in the back with witnesses claiming the second bullet was fired at close range when he lay injured on the ground from the first shot.
While William McKinney, an amateur film-maker, was also shot in the back in Glenfada Park.
On Thursday, there was relief that other soldiers involved in Bloody Sunday were not prosecuted.
Philip Barden, a lawyer acting for nine of the Paratroopers but not Soldier F, said: “My clients have nothing to say, save that they hope this is the end of the process.”
Thirteen protesters were shot dead and 15 injured by soldiers on January 30, 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Troubles. Another victim died months later.
How day of protest led to shooting
IT was to become known as Bloody Sunday. January 30, 1972, when Parachute Regiment soldiers fired on civil rights marchers in Londonderry, also marked a turning point in the Troubles.
2.50pm: About 10,000 people gather for a rally organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association to protest over internment without trial. Such protests had been banned
3.45pm: Army barricades block marchers from their inten-ded route. In William Street, some protesters throw stones at the soldiers who respond with rubber bullets, CS gas and water cannon. Two men are shot and wounded
4.05pm: A unit of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment advances down William Street with orders to arrest as many as possible
4.10pm: The main outbreak of shooting begins
4.40pm: By now, 13 marchers have been killed and 15 wounded, one of whom later dies. The soldiers claimed they were fired upon first but the marchers said the Army shot indiscriminately at unarmed civilians
April 19, 1972: Within 11 weeks of the shootings Lord Widgery, the Lord Chief Justice, publishes a report broadly supporting the Army version of events. It is branded a whitewash
January 29, 1998: Three months before signing the Good Friday Agreement, Tony Blair establishes a new inquiry into Bloody Sunday. Lord Saville of Newdigate is appointed chairman
June 15, 2010: After 12 years and at a cost of £200million, Lord Saville finally delivers his report. He concludes that protesters posed no threat to the paratroopers, whose “unjustifiable firing” caused the deaths and injuries. Then-PM David Cameron says the soldiers’ actions were “both unjustified and unjustifiable”
July 5, 2012: The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirms it is conducting a murder inquiry into the deaths of 14 civilians
August 19, 2016: Police conclude their interviews with former paratroopers. It is disclosed that 18 ex- soldiers are under investigation for crimes ranging from murder and attempted murder to perjury for allegedly lying under oath at the inquiry. One soldier has since died
December 2016: A police file is passed to the Public Prosecution Service to decide whether to bring charges
March 14, 2019: One soldier is charged with two murders and four attempted murders
The momentous decision was greeted with anger by families who wanted more ex-soldiers to face trial.
Founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group Alan Barry said: “It’s one soldier too many as far as we’re concerned.”
Meanwhile families of the victims said they were “disappointed” more soldiers were not facing prosecution.
John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed, said many had received a “terrible disappointment”.
But he welcomed the news for the six families impacted by the decision to prosecute soldier F, now believed to be in his 70s.
He said: “Their victory is our victory.
“We have walked a long journey since our fathers and brothers were brutally slaughtered on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday, over that passage of time all the parents of the deceased have died – we are here to take their place.”
And he declared there were legal means of challenging the decisions not to prosecute, adding: “The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet.”
Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie was shot dead, said: “Everyone deserves justice, including those whose loved ones were murdered by the British state.”
He said it was “disappointing” for families who had not received news of prosecutions, saying: “We are mindful of those families who received that news today, and believe me, there are many.”
But he added: “For us here today it is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us.”
Pawns for appeasers
HOUNDING these soldiers and others accused of serious crimes in Northern Ireland is politically motivated.
It forms part of a Sinn Fein/IRA campaign to rewrite history, painting their terrorists as freedom fighters and our troops as oppressors.
This action is doubly despicable when you consider that so many IRA terrorists were given early release, Royal Pardons and letters of comfort.
There has been no such treatment for British soldiers, who, yet again, the government is treating as mere pawns in its game of appeasement of extremists.
- By Col Richard Kemp
Sinn Fein MP for Foyle Elisha McCallion said: “It’s useful to remind ourselves that a lot of people never thought we would see the day when we had anyone potentially prosecuted over what happened on Bloody Sunday in 1972.
“However there is no point in denying there are a lot of sore hearts and a lot of disappointment here in the city today, people expected a lot more.
“The city is somewhat numb, and I have heard some of the families say they actually feel today as bad as they did on the day.”
Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams tweeted: “The Bloody Sunday Massacre was wrong. The Widgery whitewash was wrong. Today’s decision to prosecute only 1 British soldier for murdering civilians on 30 Jan 1972 is wrong.”
Families of those killed gathered in Londonderry for the landmark decision near the scene of the infamous shootings in Derry’s Bogside, many in tears after the announcement.
Confirming the decision, which came after a years-long murder probe, Northern Ireland’s director of public prosecutions Stephen Herron, said: “I am mindful that it has been a long road for the families to reach this point and today will be another extremely difficult day for many of them.
“There has been a level of expectation around the prosecution decisions in light of the findings of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.
“However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the Inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings, due to the strict rules of evidence that apply.
“I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, this this is no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers.”
He added: “We recognise the deep disappointment felt by many of those we met with today. As prosecutors we are required to be wholly objective in our approach.
“However, that does not mean that we do not have compassion for all those who are affected by our decisions.”
Meanwhile Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, said Soldier F’s legal fees would be covered, saying: “We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
“The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision.
“This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.
“The Ministry of Defence is working across Government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.
“And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues. Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”
Troubles vet's Supreme fight
ANOTHER Troubles veteran Dennis Hutchings was on Thursday fighting in the Supreme court against a decision to have a non-jury trial.
Hutchings, 77, from Cornwall, has been charged with attempted murder and attempted grievous bodily harm over the death of John Pat Cunningham 1974.He is due to stand trial in Belfast, he denies the charges.
Speaking outside court, Hutchings said: “The thing is whatever decision we get in here today affects every service person.
“If I win, for instance, they will then have a choice between having a judge-only trial and a jury trial; 99.9 per cent of service people will want a jury trial.”
Pointing at the nearby Houses of Parliament, Hutchings added: “These people sent us there to do the job. Yes, things happened.
“They called it the Troubles because it’s easier to call it the Troubles. It wasn’t the bloody Troubles, it was a war, as simple as that.”
The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland can direct a defendant be tried by a judge alone.
The Supreme Court is expected to reserve its decision.
The bloodshed unfolded on January 30, 1972, when soldiers opened fire on a civil rights protest march.
Instead of quelling simmering trouble it sparked years of conflict – with many turning away from non-violent protest – into the arms of the IRA.
While a number of soldiers admitting opening fire and killing protestors on the day, only one now faces trial.
A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by victims’ families and a campaign was launched for a new public inquiry.
A fresh probe was eventually ordered by then PM Tony Blair in 1998.
The 12 year-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that troops killed protesters who posed no threat, and slammed the decision to send them into the Bogside estate.
Following the inquiry’s conclusion in 2010, then PM David Cameron said the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
A murder investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £200 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One has since died.
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Ciaran Shiels, a solicitor for a number of victim’s families, said they were “disappointed that not all of those responsible are to face trial”.
But, he added: “This is a remarkable achievement by the families and victims of Bloody Sunday.
“We will give detailed consideration to the reasons provided for decisions not to prosecute the other soldiers, with a view to making further submissions to the Prosecution Service and we shall ultimately challenge in the High Court, by way of judicial review, any prosecutorial decision that does not withstand scrutiny.”
A demonstrator is chased into custody by a British soldier[/caption]
The events in the Bogside district of Londonderry were among the most notorious of The Troubles[/caption]
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