Watch live Bloody Sunday prosecution decision

Lester Mason
March 14, 2019

Thirteen civil rights demonstrators were shot dead on January 30 1972, on one of the most notorious days of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

As a member of the Parachute Regiment's 1st battalion, Soldier F said he fired 13 rounds in Londonderry on January 30 1972, as he gave evidence to the Saville Inquiry anonymously in 2003. Relatives and supporters of the victims of the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings hold images of those who died as they march from the Bogside area of Derry.

"I wish to clearly state that where a decision has been reached not to prosecute, that this is in no way diminishes any finding by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry that those killed or injured were not posing a threat to any of the soldiers", Stephen Herron, the director of public prosecutions for Northern Ireland, said as he announced the charges.

The march had been banned by Northern Ireland's police and the British Army, but organizers wanted a peaceful demonstration, avoiding confrontation at the barricades with the well-armed soldiers.

Gavin Williamson confirmed the Ministry of Defence would support "soldier F" and pay the legal costs.

A fourteenth man died months later, but it was found his death was not the results of injuries he sustained on Bloody Sunday. "Our serving and former personnel can not live in constant fear of prosecution".

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".

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Following the Saville Inquiry report's publication, then-Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the soldiers' actions in the House of Commons.

Victim's families said they were disappointed by the decision.

"However, much of the material which was available for consideration by the Inquiry is not admissible in criminal proceedings, due to strict rules of evidence that apply", he said.

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.

The Saville Report said the paratroopers opened fire without warning and that none of the casualties has posed a threat.

The families of the victims have campaigned for decades for the former soldiers to face justice.

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.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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