The Irish Times view on the Bloody Sunday decision: A massacre that still reverberates
Linda Nash whose youngest brother William Nash died on Bloody Sunday with Eamonn McCann outside the city hotel. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
There is understandable disappointment in Derry at the decision of the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service to charge just one former British soldier with murder, arising from the events of Bloody Sunday in January 1972, which left 14 people dead.
While it is a positive development that somebody is going to face prosecution it is a pity that just one individual is being held to account for a massacre that fuelled the cycle of violence that ruined the lives of so many people on this island.
There is no escaping the fact the decision 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 has left the families of the other victims still struggling for justice.
John Kelly, brother of one of those victims, spoke of his terrible disappointment at the decision to only prosecute a single soldier but added that all of the relatives were fully behind the Wray and McKinney families.
The decision not to prosecute the other soldiers who fired shots on the day, was based on legal advice that the available evidence was insufficient
“Their victory is our victory,” he said. Alana Burke, who was injured on Bloody Sunday, made the point that the decision was a vindication of the decades-long campaign waged by the families to clear the names of their loved ones and to bring those responsible for their deaths and injuries to justice.
Despite their obvious disappointment, the families of the victims reacted with great dignity to the announcement by Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron that the decision had been taken to prosecute only one former soldier out of the 17 still alive who participated in the day’s awful events.
Herron made the point that the decision not to prosecute in a number of cases in no way diminished the finding made by the Bloody Sunday inquiry conducted by Lord Saville, published in 2010, that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers.
The decision not to prosecute the other 16 former soldiers, or the two alleged members of the Official IRA who fired shots on the day, was based on legal advice that the available evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of a conviction in a criminal trial.
Still, the decision does not diminish the apology made by former British prime minister David Cameron, who in 2010 told the House of Commons that what had happened on Bloody Sunday was “unjustified and unjustifiable, it was wrong.”
Expressing its solidarity yesterday with the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday, the Government in Dublin said they deserved, and must have access to, effective investigations into the killings, and have the opportunity to find justice in accordance with the law and regardless of the perpetrator. That search for accountability must go on.