Bloody Sunday: Derry awaits decision on 1972 killings

Pallbearers carry one of 13 coffins of Bloody Sunday victims to a graveside during a funeral in Londonderry on February 2,1972

A former British soldier is set to be prosecuted in connection with the deaths of two civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago, part of an event known as Bloody Sunday.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry found that the British soldiers had opened fire without justification at unarmed, fleeing civilians and then lied about it for decades.

They killed 13 Catholics and wounded 14 others, one of whom later died.

The PPS found there was sufficient evidence to charge the ex-serviceman "Soldier F", but insufficient evidence to bring charges against 16 other former members of the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment and two IRA suspects present on the day of the killings.

He will face charges for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell in Londonderry in 1972.

The prosecution service said there was insufficient evidence to charge other soldiers.

Kevin Mc Kinney's father Gerard was one of the men killed on the day by the soldier who is now deceased. It involved more than 2,000 witnesses, with an estimated 125,000 pages of evidential material considered.

Before a prosecutor's service briefing at a Londonderry hotel, the families marched from the Bogside and sang civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome".

Soldiers take cover behind their sandbagged armoured cars in Londonderry Northern Ireland
APSoldiers take cover behind their sandbagged armoured cars in Londonderry Northern Ireland

A Government spokesperson said: "The welfare of our personnel and veterans is of the utmost importance and we provide legal and pastoral support to any veteran who requires it".

Britain's Ministry of Defense said it would help defend the ex-soldier who will now face prosecution, while working to reform the system for investigating allegations of past misdeeds by the military. We have cried out for them for many years, and now we have succeeded for them.

The letter went on: "The Ministry of Defence has ensured that all veterans under investigation in Bloody Sunday are aware of the support available, either via their legal representatives or directly".

The Bloody Sunday killings caused widespread anger at the time - not least in the United States, where support for the Irish Republican cause runs high - and almost 50 years later the incident remains highly emotive. But they now face a separate, lengthy.

Victims' families and other voices say they must nonetheless be held to account for their actions.

The impact of the killings was an immediate accelerant for the violence that would claim 3,500 lives in the 25 years to the Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, McCann said.

Families of people killed on Bloody Sunday have said they are "not finished yet" after prosecutors announced that only one former paratrooper is to be prosecuted over the shootings. English judge Mark Saville, who conducted the investigation, gave the ex-paratroopers broad protections from criminal charges and anonymity, citing the risk that they could be targeted with retaliation by IRA dissidents.

"The decision to prosecute just one ex-soldier does not change the fact that Bloody Sunday was a massacre of innocents", Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said in a statement.

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