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30 July 1998 Edition

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Bloody Sunday Inquiry rulings acceptable

By Martha McClelland

Relatives and wounded said they will cooperate with the Bloody Sunday Inquiry following Friday's rulings by its chair, Lord Saville. This involves the handover of documents that they had intimated could be withheld for another inquiry if the arrangements proved impossible to ensure a fair hearing.

Saville agreed to grant the families the ten barristers they deemed necessary rather than the three initially offered by the Inquiry, although in his statement he insisted that he did not feel that this was a strict legal necessity, but ruled that the additional legal representation was justified in the interests of justice ``being seen to be done.''

On the contentious issue of immunity from prosecution for witnesses - particularly the British soldiers and officials - Saville did not rule out immunity but said this was possible, with each witness applying for it separately and each application judged individually. Included in the protection offered under anonymity, Saville did not rule out witnesses being identified to the public by numbers or letters, or giving evidence behind a screen.

Speaking for the relatives, Mr Tony Doherty gave the ruling a guarded welcome, confirming that relatives had agreed to cooperate with the Inquiry but would be reviewing their position at crucial points. ``The most important issues, such as immunity and anonymity, have yet to be dealt with and we will be reviewing such issues at every important juncture. At this stage the families are pleased that the inquiry has established the fundamental issue of fairness in how it intends to proceed.''

However, Doherty did say that the families were disappointed that Saville had rebuked them for their lack of cooperation in handing over materials in their possession. ``The families had always intended to hand over the relevant materials as soon as the ground rules for the inquiry were established, as we have absolutely nothing to hide. The families felt it was more important to rebuke the Ministry of Defence who was been unable to locate any of the 1800 soldiers, including 320 Paras, who were there on the day, apart from the ten soldiers who volunteered to come forward. To date the families have received very little materials from the Inquiry and nothing at all from the MoD.''

Over 40,000 pages of documents will be presented to the Inquiry on behalf of the relatives.
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