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9 April 1998 Edition

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Time will tell

Relatives and wounded promise closest scrutiny of Bloody Sunday Inquiry



By Martha McClelland

For the formal opening of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, relatives walked from where the original procession was stopped in William Street to the Guildhall, symbolically finishing a march stopped dead by British Paratroopers 26 years ago.

Mickey McKinney, Chair of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign (BSJC), explained, ``This was about completing one journey and embarking on another, namely the search for truth and justice. We hope that at long last we will finally establish the full truth of what happened on Bloody Sunday and indeed why it happened and who was involved''. McKinney noted this inquiry's deliberate choice of the Guildhall venue, in sharp contrast to Ted Heath's comment in 1972, ruling out the Guildhall because although ``it was the obvious place, might be on the wrong side of the River Foyle.''

``We are approaching the inquiry with an open mind,'' McKinney said, ``and hope the inquiry panel will honour their promise to conduct the inquiry with `fairness, thoroughness and impartiality'. However, we will be paying very close attention to detail through the duration of the inquiry.''

A top legal team for the relatives was led by Peter Madden of Madden and Finucane, Belfast, and included Michael Farrell of Dublin, and Derry solicitors Paddy MacDermott, Greg McCartney, and Des Doherty. Welcoming the new approach announced by Lord Saville, head of the Inquiry, they also requested him to provide copies of all relevant materials collected, so they could determine not only what happened but why.

McKinney acknowledged that the relatives believed Saville ``was trying to be fair'' but cautioned ``only through the process of the inquiry can we find out if he is fair.''

From their past experience of British justice many questioned what the BSJC would do if the British government, or key witnesses like Paratroops, sought to evade the inquiry. The ghost of the Stalker Inquiry haunted some minds: What would the relatives do if the British government slapped Public Interest Immunity Certificates on crucial witnesses? Would the BSJC ask the British government to show respect for the independence of the inquiry by undertaking not to issue PIICs? What would the relatives attitude be if certain witnesses sought immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony? The relatives and their legal team refused to mortgage their future strategy choices by decisions today, such matters would be dealt with as they arose.

Although Saville ruled out this inquiry investigating Widgery, Peter Madden said much of the Widgery evidence would be very relevant, and Saville would be held to his promise to ``seek all relevant witnesses and statements''

Mickey McKinney stressed, ``Bloody Sunday goes further than the people who pulled the triggers'' and relative John Kelly elaborated: ``Bloody Sunday was planned in advance. Those who planned it must be brought forward, including the British Prime Minister, the Stormont government, including its Security Council, and anyone else involved''

When asked ``What is more important to the families, to establish the full facts, or lay the groundwork for eventual prosecutions?'' John Kelly said''Truth and justice run in parallel. If we find the truth, we hope to achieve justice. We look forward, time will tell.''

 

Launch of Bloody Sunday Inquiry



Waiting for the truth



By Peadar Whelan

In his opening statement launching the Bloody Sunday Inquiry in Derry last Friday 3 April Lord Saville said, ``Whatever conflicting views are held about the events of that day, it has become known as Bloody Sunday, so it seems to us that the inquiry should be called the Bloody Sunday Inquiry''.

So the massacre which we all know as Bloody Sunday has now been officially named by the British state; a belated recognition, almost, that the military operation launched against civil rights marchers on 30 January 1972 resulted in one of the bloodiest days of this conflict.

Whether the truth of Bloody Sunday - that everybody has known for the last 26 years - will come out of this inquiry is yet to be seen. Instead of being told that the British government has declared that any evidence or witnesses that may have a bearing on finding the truth of Bloody Sunday will be investigated or inquired into, we were told that we would have to wait and see.

The Tribunal will ``decide what material it should consider and what witnesses it should call to give evidence''.

We don't know if, for example, they will call Edward Heath, the then British prime minister who warned Lord Widgery after he was appointed to head the first inquiry into Bloody Sunday that ``we are fighting a propaganda war'' in Ireland. Or will John Taylor, a member of the Stormont government of the time, be called to answer about the decisions of the Joint Security Council in the days leading up to Bloody Sunday?

We don't know if those documents held under 50 and 75 year secrecy orders will be open for scrutiny or if cabinet minutes from Downing Street or Stormont will be included in the evidence.

We don't know the answers, therefore it raises doubts about the scope of the Inquiry.

On the plus side Lord Saville, the Inquiry chair, said that under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act 1921 the Tribunal had the power to bring people forward to give evidence or produce documents and the Inquiry team will invoke this power, ``if the search for truth requires it''. Let's hope he has the courage to do so.

The other big question was that of immunity. The inquiry team decided that while serious allegations concerning the events of Bloody Sunday were made, including accusations of murder, they considered asking the Attorney-General for immunity from prosecution for all witnesses to the inquiry. However, in deferring the request Lord Saville said he would wait and see whether granting immunity is necessary for carrying out the inquiry.

The inquiry proper does not start until the Autumn and sitting along with English Law Lord Saville are Sir Edward Somers formerly of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand and Mr Justice Hoyt, a Canadian judge who is presently Chief Justice of New Brunswick.

The Inquiry will be held in Derry's Guildhall and while it will not be permitted to be broadcast by the electronic media it will be available on the internet on http://www.bloody-sunday-inquiry.org.uk

 

Hope and expectation



By Frances McGinley

Relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday gathered at McCool's shop in William Street on Friday morning for a symbolic march to the Guildhall prior to the opening of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry.

The relatives of the dead and those who were wounded then made their way to the Guildhall to complete the ill-fated march that had started twenty-six years ago. As they entered the Guildhall, a nervous whispering and shuffling of feet were the only sounds to be heard as people expectantly waited on the panel who will conduct this inquiry.

Throughout Lord Saville's address the relatives sat quietly taking in every word. After Lord Saville finished, they gathered together to discuss what had been said. Many expressed reservations about the question of immunity, but on the whole the families were willing to give the terms of the inquiry a cautious welcome.

When the launch ended, the three judges visited the site of the shootings. Shoppers and passersby stood in amazement as the large crowd made their way to the Bloody Sunday monument. The tour was not without its ironic moments. The three men unwittingly posed for a photocall in front of a mural which demanded an end to ``British Injustice''. Later they were escorted on to what is left of Walkers Pillar by Apprentice boy Alastair Simpson.

When the tour ended the families had time to stand back and digest the day's events. No one at this stage knows how this inquiry will develop, but the families sincerely hope that perhaps this inquiry will finally expose the real truth of the events of that fatal day.



 

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