Bloody Sunday decision ‘inflicts further injustice’ on victims’ families, Senator says

Mixed reaction in Seanad to charging of one former British soldier over 1972 killings

 Bloody Sunday family members march ahead of the  announcement of a prosecution over the incident, in Derry, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Bloody Sunday family members march ahead of the announcement of a prosecution over the incident, in Derry, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

Great injustice has been further inflicted on the families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday killings, a Sinn Féin Senator has said, in the wake of the decision to prosecute only one former British soldier over the incident.

Belfast-based Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile said in the Seanad that he believed that the families “expect the Irish Government to come out on the record on this the most pivotal day”, following the decision by the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to charge the soldier in connection with the 1972 shootings in which 14 people died.

Mr Ó Donnghaile said it was a “traumatic and deeply hurtful day”, and there was a “deep sense of hurt, of loss and a feeling of great injustice being further inflicted on these families”.

Sinn Féin Seanad leader Rose Conway-Walsh said: “Our thoughts and solidarity [are] with the families as they digest the news and the disappointment they might feel around this.”

She said it would be appropriate for the Tánaiste to make a statement on this decision.

She added: “I’m mindful of the words of Kay Duddy, sister of [Bloody Sunday victim] Jackie Duddy, on RTÉ this morning that, ‘This is not about revenge, it’s about justice.’”

Ms Conway-Walsh said then British prime minister David Cameron had stated in 2010 that “the conclusions of the Saville Report [on Bloody Sunday] are absolutely clear. There is no doubt, there is nothing equivocal, there are no ambiguities.

“What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”

Surprise

Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan expressed surprise that only one soldier had been charged.

However, he welcomed “the fact that there is evidence against one to show that murder is murder and you can’t go around killing people just because you happen to wear a uniform”.

His party colleague Diarmuid Wilson said 14 people were murdered in 1972, “and now a soldier is being charged with the unlawful killing of only two of those people”.

The soldier who was charged was “carrying out orders”, he said.

“Who gave the order and why are they not before the courts?”

Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer agreed to a debate on the decision, to be held once the Upper House returns after the St Patrick’s week recess.

Mr Buttimer said it was “a time for calm reflection” and to remember those who died in the incident and the dignity of their families in the intervening years.

He said: “Today is a bit confusing. I understand. It is important that we don’t react in a way that would jeopardise what has been achieved on the island in terms of reconciliation.”

Mr Buttimer said everyone wanted to “see justice and to see people held to account, but at the same time recognising that it is about justice and it is also about healing and reconciliation”.

The Tánaiste will address the Seanad in a debate on the PPS decision on March 27th.