25 June 1998 Edition
Concern grows over Bloody Sunday Inquiry
By Ned Kelly
Amid growing concerns about the new Bloody Sunday inquiry, Gerry Adams has told Tony Blair he must ``remain focused and be prepared to stand up to those within his own system who are prepared to perpetuate injustice.''
Relatives fear that the British inquiry team will use arguments about cost to undermine their entitlement to legal representation and constrain efforts to engage experts capable of challenging the British version of events on Bloody Sunday.
Gerry Duddy of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign told An Phoblacht that his ``biggest fear is that the inquiry will end up the same as the Widgery inquiry''. He said he felt the inquiry was using the cost issue as a ``stalling tactic''.
Since the discredited Widgery inquiry was conducted in the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday many pieces of evidence have emerged that the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment was involved in a premeditated and politically motivated attack.
Relatives of the 28 people killed or wounded on Bloody Sunday are entitled to 3 legal representatives each, in theory a total of 84. But in Lord Saville's opening statement he asked families with a ``common concern'' to consider joint legal representation, and in response to this the families and their legal team agreed to scale down their representation. They proposed a legal team consisting of about 20 lawyers, 20% of their entitlement.
But it is now believed that the inquiry team will only allow the Bloody Sunday campaigners a legal team of one senior counsel, two junior counsel and one firm of solicitors. This represents minute resources in comparison to those available to the British Ministry of Defence and Civil Service, and even less than were permitted during the original 1972 inquiry when the British attempted to brand those murdered and wounded as gunmen and bombers.
Also, in light of the inquiry's announcement last Thursday, when the inquiry said it intends to postpone public hearings by six months, until February 1999, due to the overwhelming volume of evidence, the legal representation on offer to the families can only be seen as hopelessly inadequate.
The Bloody Sunday relatives hoped that the preliminary hearing scheduled for 20 July in the Derry Guildhall would address their concerns. But news of the delay only came to light when the inquiry team was contacted by the Derry Journal. ``This can only increase concerns that the inquiry will fail to act openly and honestly,'' Don Mullan told An Phoblacht.
Mullan, author of Eyewitness Bloody Sunday and press secretary to the relatives legal team, said, ``not only is the right to engage our own experts being questioned but the problems about legal representation should have been decided months ago.''
He said the inquiry was to require the families' legal team to explain exactly why they may need certain expert witnesses. This, he suggested, would allow the British to monitor and manipulate the nature of evidence they were able to gather. ``Given the background and previous experience of the families these developments are absolutely disgusting. There is a real belief that they are by and large emanating from civil servants. And they are deliberately allowing rows over costs and confusion to develop.''
With the prospect of the families walking away from the inquiry - the family of Jim Wray already has - Mullan asked, ``are people trying to create the conditions where the families will have no option but to walk away from this inquiry because they have no confidence in it?''
Mullan has also been in contact with Bertie Ahern the Taoiseach and the Fine Gael leader, John Bruton about the relatives' concerns. Mullan said that Bruton described the actions of the inquiry as ``insulting'' and prompted him to table two questions for the Dail on Tuesday.
During Tuesday's debate on the issue Ahern said there was ``no question'' about the need for strong legal representation. He pledged to support the families and monitor the inquiry but essentially side-stepped the issue of responsibility for the rights of Irish citizens living in the Six Counties. While calling for the legal entitlement to representation for the relatives to be respected, Bertie Ahern failed to offer any concrete support. He also confirmed that the Dublin government would decline the opportunity to seek representation for themselves at the inquiry.
RUC target Bloody Sunday relative
By Ned Kelly
John Wray from the Bogside in Derry, whose brother Jim was killed by British Paratroopers on Bloody Sunday, has claimed that a two year campaign of RUC harassment against him has reached new depths.
Wray claims that several months ago two uniformed RUC men approached him in his own home and said they wanted to `meet' him and that his family were vulnerable to loyalist attacks. He claims that over the last couple of weeks the same men have stepped up this campaign. Wray, who is studying at the local `tech, said he started to see the same two men dressed in civilian clothes on the route he used to travel to and from his studies.
Then last Wednesday 17 June, as he walked to the `tech for an exam one of the RUC men approached him and said, ``we need to talk to you, you really need to talk to us. You are still not safe yet, you need to take your family into consideration.'' The RUC men then said, ``you have to talk to us, you are hanging around with people in Sinn Fein circles.''
After the incident, Wray said, ``they have intimidated me and put me under pressure. They are playing with people's lives.'' He will now pursue a formal complaint via his solicitor.
Sinn Fein councillor, Mary Nelis said, ``in the week that a commission is tasked with investigating the future of policing, the RUC once again demonstrates its inability to function as an impartial policing service.''