Cameron 'deeply sorry' for Bloody Sunday

 

British prime minster David Cameron said today the  Bloody Sunday inquiry has found the British soldiers' actions in killing 14 people were in no way justified.

The 14 were shot in Derry on January 30th, 1972, by paratroopers following a civil rights rally in the city.

The inquiry set up to investigate the deaths was set up in 1998 under the chairmanship of Lord Saville of Newdigate, and it published its final report today.

Addressing parliament, Mr Cameron said the Saville findings were clear in finding the soldiers' actions both "unjustified and unjustifiable".

Noting the report's "shocking conclusions," the prime minister said the British government was ultimately responsible for the actions of the army and therefore he was "deeply sorry" for what happened on Bloody Sunday.

Mr Cameron said standing up for the army did not mean "defending the indefensible". "The conclusions of this report are absolutely clear," Mr Cameron said. "What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable.

"It's not for politicians to talk in terms of murder or unlawful killing. You don't defend the army by defending the indefensible or hiding from the truth. It is clear that the events of Bloody Sunday were in no way justified," he told MPs.

The prime minister noted Lord Saville had found no warning was given to any civilians prior to troops opening fire, none of the soldiers fired in response to attacks by petrol bombers or stone throwers and that some of those killed were trying to get away or help those injured or dying.

Lord Saville said soldiers lost their self-control in firing their weapons, "forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training and failing to satisfy themselves that they had identified targets posing a threat of causing death or serious injury".

Mr Cameron added that many soldiers lied about their role in events on the day and

"knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing”.

However, the Tory leader also defended the army's role in the North. "Bloody Sunday is not the defining story of the service given by British soldiers in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The armed forces displayed professionalism in upholding the forces of law and democracy which laid the grounds for the peace process," he said.

He added the Saville report found there was no evidence of a conspiracy, cover-up nor premeditation over the Derry killings or matters relating to them since.

The Saville report, which cost £200 million to produce, was fully published at 3.30pm, and Mr Cameron told the House of Commons there would be no more "costly open-ended inquiries into the past".

He added: "This report and the inquiry itself demonstrate how a state should hold itself to account and how we at all times should be prepared to hold ourselves to the highest standards."

In his report Lord Saville notes the Northern government, with the agreement of the British government, had introduced internment without trial of suspected terrorists in 1971 and banned marches and processions.

He says the nationalist community in particular despised internment without trial. "Many people were interned without trial, almost without exception Catholics from the nationalist community.

"Over the following months there were allegations that those held had been mistreated, allegations that in significant respects were eventually found to have substance," the report says.

"What happened on Bloody Sunday strengthened the IRA, increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the army and exacerbated the violent conflict," the Saville inquiry, which heard evidence from 921 witnesses between 2000 and 2005, reported.

"It was a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland."

Lord Saville noted his inquiry heard allegations that politicians in the UK and the North governments, as well as the military authorities, had planned to mount an action "they knew would involve the deliberate use of unwarranted lethal force or which they sanctioned with reckless disregard as to whether such force was used".

However, he ruled the proposition that events on Bloody Sunday were intended and planned by the authorities, or were foreseen by the authorities as likely to happen, could not be sustained.

The report also found the organisers of the civil rights march bore no responsibility for the deaths and injuries that followed.