Northern Ireland

One Former Soldier To Be Charged Over Bloody Sunday

Soldiers had been sent into the Bogside nationalist housing estate in Londonderry to deal with riots.

One former British soldier will face charges over the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry.

'Soldier F' will face prosecution for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O'Donnell.

Sixteen other veterans and two ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were investigated, will not face prosecution.

Soldiers had been sent into the Bogside nationalist housing estate in Londonderry to deal with riots which followed a march defying a ban on public processions.

Families marching on their way to hear the decision.

Members of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment opened fire at a civil rights march in Derry in 1972 killing 13 people.

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

The Public Prosecution Service has been looking at the case of 18 soldiers - one of whom has since died.

It has also been announced two former members of the 'official IRA' will not face charges.

Families gathered outside the Museum of Free Derry this morning.

Founder of the Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans group Alan Barry said: "It's one soldier too many as far as we're concerned.

"It's very one-sided. No soldier should be charged.

"It happened 47 years ago, a line in the sand needs to be drawn and people need to move on.

"Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement veterans are being left open to prosecution while terrorists have been cleansed of their past crimes."

Commenting on the decision by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

"We are indebted to those soldiers who served with courage and distinction to bring peace to Northern Ireland. 

"The welfare of our former service personnel is of the utmost importance and we will offer full legal and pastoral support to the individual affected by today’s decision.

"This includes funding all his legal costs and providing welfare support.

“The Ministry of Defence is working across Government to drive through a new package of safeguards to ensure our armed forces are not unfairly treated.

“And the Government will urgently reform the system for dealing with legacy issues.

"Our serving and former personnel cannot live in constant fear of prosecution.”

Bloody Sunday minute's silence
A minute's silence was held after the announcement (Picture: Niall Carson/PA images).

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was killed, said many had received a "terrible disappointment".

But he welcomed the positive news for the six families impacted by the decision to prosecute Soldier F.

"Their victory is our victory," he said.

"We have walked a long journey since our fathers and brothers were brutally slaughtered on the streets of Derry on Bloody Sunday, over that passage of time all the parents of the deceased have died - we are here to take their place."

Mr Kelly highlighted there were legal means of challenging the decisions not to prosecute:

"The Bloody Sunday families are not finished yet."

Before the charges were announced, the families gathered outside The Museum of Free Derry, just yards from where the killings took place 47 years ago, and marched together to a city centre hotel to hear whether charges will be brought.

Bloody Sunday mural on house in Londonderry
Bloody Sunday mural in Londonderry.

Mickey McKinney's oldest brother Willie was a fun-loving amateur photographer shot dead while he filmed the march.

Mr McKinney walked in the front line of families clutching a photo of his brother bearing the message "Justice for William McKinney".

He has been in the front line of campaigning for answers for decades.

Mr McKinney said: "It is important to point out that justice for one family is justice for all of us."

Soldier F is to be charged with murdering his brother and James Wray.

Mr Wray's brother John, 57, said: "David Cameron said it was unjustified and, I am not a lawyer but unjustified homicide, there is a term for that - and it is murder."

Families of the victims.

A public inquiry conducted by a senior judge shortly after the deaths was branded a whitewash by the dead victims' families, and thus began a campaign for a new public inquiry.

Families of the dead sought to right the wrongs of false claims that their loved ones had been armed.

A fresh probe was eventually ordered by former prime minister Tony Blair in 1998.

A decade-long investigation by Lord Saville of Newdigate concluded that the troops killed peaceful protesters and seriously criticised the decision to send them into the Bogside estate in vehicles.

Following the inquiry's conclusion in 2010, then-Prime Minister David Cameron said the killings were unjustified and unjustifiable.

Entering Free Derry sign on slab in Londonderry
Free Derry sign on stone slab in Londonderry.

An investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) followed the £195 million inquiry and files on 18 soldiers were submitted to prosecutors in 2016 and 2017 for consideration. One former soldier has since died.

Four other soldiers included in the Saville Report died before police had completed their investigation.

Papers before prosecutors included 668 witness statements and numerous photos, video and audio evidence.