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6 July 2000 Edition

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Public Meeting Hears Call to Disband Paras

A public meeting took place in Derry last week to take stock of he first phase of the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday.

The panel, chaired by BBC journalist Paul McFadden, gave assessments of Christopher Clark QC's opening remarks, an amazing 40 days of testimony, which make it the longest opening argument in British legal history.

Broadcaster and author Eamonn McCann, who was one of the organisers of the civil rights march, told the well-attended meeting that the purpose of tribunals of inquiry is to restore public faith and confidence in the institutions of government. He said he felt it was a peculiar undertaking to seek to restore the confidence of the Bloody Sunday victims and their families in British justice.

``Given that as the function of the Inquiry, it is therefore necessary that it considers the Widgery Tribunal and its findings. Widgery compounded the problem and deepened mistrust in the institutions of the state,''he said. ``It seems clear that Saville should formally and explicitly repudiate Widgery.''

In relation to confidence in military institutions, he stated: `` Lord Saville should be urged to recommend the disbandment of the Parachute Regiment, given their actions on Bloody Sunday, the Springhill Massacre and other atrocities they have been involved in. This argument can be brought into the Tribunal.''

The meeting heard how families who lost loved ones on Bloody Sunday had been living in limbo for 28 years. Linda Roddy's brother, William Nash, was murdered at the barricade on Rossville Street. Her father Alexander Nash was wounded as he tried to reach his dying son. She described the harassment suffered by her family in the wake of Bloody Sunday, which included house raids, arrests and the harrowing experience of being strip-searched at the age of 16.

Mrs Roddy told the meeting that there was a lot of information about the events of the day which was not known to the families and wounded before the opening of the Inquiry. ``We felt that the people of Derry weren't there to support us when we needed them, but now we realise that the families and wounded were being protected from the awful truth we are now hearing in the eyewitness accounts and government documents.'' She said that her father, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday that day, had always believed in the rule of law and in justice. It was her hope that the Inquiry would uphold the rule of law and deliver the justice her family and others had been seeking for 28 years.

The need to look beyond the Saville Inquiry at the consequences of its' outcome was raised by Robin Percival, Chair of the Bloody Sunday Trust. He believed that if the Inquiry concluded that murder had been committed in Derry, the consequences for the fabric of British society would be huge.

Percival told the meeting: ``In 1972, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, participated in a criminal conspiracy to withhold evidence and cover up the truth. Lord Saville has made it clear that he will not investigate Widgery. Why did the legal system fail in 1972 and how will Saville justify it?''

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry is in recess for the summer. When it reconvenes on 4 September, counsel for the families and wounded will deliver their opening remarks before civilian eyewitnesses begin to give testimony.

BY PATRICIA McBRIDE
GUE-NGL-new-Jan-2106

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
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