Micheál Martin: Decision to charge one soldier over Bloody Sunday ‘significant’
Appalling that Britain intends to amend legacy system to protect former state forces – SF
John Kelly (centre), whose brother Michael died during Bloody Sunday, during a press conference in reaction to today’s Bloody Sunday prosecution announcement in Derry. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has described as “significant” the decision to charge one former British solider over the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings.
Mr Martin said that many families would be left disappointed at the news but said it was not the time for “knee-jerk” reactions. “There will be a lot of families today extremely disappointed following the publication of the PPS report today, but they continue to show great dignity.
“The PPS report will have to be studied very carefully and today is not a day for knee jerk reactions as it is crucial that legacy issues are dealt with in detail by both the Irish and British governments.
“Since the murder of the 14 people in 1972 the journey to this point has been a long and tortuous one. Indeed, it took many years for the British government to eventually acknowledge state involvement in any murders.”
Mr Martin described the process as “worthwhile” and pointed out that the North’s PPS could not consider inadmissible evidence. The director of the PPS Stephen Herron said today that there was a “level of expectation” in light of the recent Bloody Sunday inquiry but that much of the material would not be admissible in the criminal proceedings.
“It is clear from what Mr Stephen Herron said that the PPS had difficulties considering evidence that was not admissible due to the strict rules and he also added that the rules on probability are greater than standard criminal cases,” Mr Martin said.
“This is why other mechanisms can assist the families if both governments could agree to establish them.
“Notwithstanding the families’ inevitable disappointment today, the prosecution of Soldier F is significant given the denial of the British government for many years.
“The families of the victims should be honoured for their determination, dignity and continued bravery on behalf of those who were so brutally murdered and they will continue to be supported.”
Tánaiste Simon Coveney, responding to the decision said, “Our thoughts are with the families today and with the city of Derry. This is another traumatising and difficult day for the people of Derry and the decisions today don’t change the facts as they were outlined in the Saville inquiry which found that nobody who was killed that day was guilty of anything – they were all innocent victims who posed no threat to anybody. None of that changes. What today was about was whether the public prosecution service had sufficient evidence to secure a conviction and they had made a decision to prosecute one individual in that regard for the murder of two people and the attempted murder of another four.
He cautioned that in relation to the prosecution itself, “ I think we all need to be careful in terms of how we comment on that or what we say so that we don’t prejudice a trial in the months ahead.”
He said that the families of victims had responded in a very dignified way, “ Albeit expressing disappointment and understandably so but I think the facts are still there and clear and the record will show that and the fact that a prosecution will now take place I think reinforces certainly some of the facts that have been outlined in the Saville inquiry.”
The Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said she shares “the sense of incredulity” at the decision.
“There is of course huge disappointment that only one former soldier has been charged with two counts of murder and four attempted murders.
“We share that disappointment and the sense of incredulity at this decision, given the clearly established facts about the actions of the British Army on Bloody Sunday.
“But even the fact that one former soldier is to face trial is a significant achievement. I also commend the dignity and solidarity shown by the families today in response to the decision. As they said themselves, justice for one family, is justice for them all.”
Ms O’Neill also outlined the party’s position in relation to the role of the British political system.
“We are mindful also that the British military and political establishment of the time have never been held accountable for their role in Bloody Sunday and the subsequent Widgery cover-up.
“That is as wrong now as it was then. The British State must be answerable for the crimes it has committed in Ireland. And it is appalling that the British Defence Secretary announced today, in response to this decision, that his Government intends to amend the legacy system to protect former state forces.
“That is typical of a government that continues to cover up its role in the conflict here and still delays the establishment of the Legacy mechanisms agreed in the Stormont House Agreement.”