Saville report on Bloody Sunday massacre exonerates victims
Nearly 40 years after 14 Catholic civil rights marchers were killed by British soldiers in Derry, Northern Ireland, the UK's Saville report on Bloody Sunday exonerated the marchers. But prosecutions look unlikely, analysts say.
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“It can now be proclaimed to the world that the dead and the wounded of Bloody Sunday, civil rights marchers one and all, were innocent one and all, gunned down on their own streets by soldiers who had been given to believe that they could kill with perfect impunity,” said Tony Doherty, whose father, Paddy, died when paratroopers started shooting, according to a report in the local Derry Journal newspaper.Skip to next paragraph
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Speaking on the steps of Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s parliament, Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen thanked his British counterpart and went on to excoriate the previous inquiry. The Irish government has pressed for this latest investigation for decades.
“Bloody Sunday was unique,” he told reporters. “The ultimate injustice perpetrated on Bloody Sunday was the unjustified and unjustifiable killing of innocent civilians by those who claimed to be keeping the peace.” Mr. Cowen called the previous inquiry “a shameful attempt to distort history.”
The year 1972 was the bloodiest in the conflict in Ireland, seeing a total of 479 deaths.
Political problems with history
Kevin Bean, a professor at the Institute of Irish Studies at England's University of Liverpool, says that despite the prime minister’s reconciliatory tone, the report will not be welcomed in the backrooms of Westminter.
“It's problematic for the government because there have been unpleasant echos in the conduct of British troops in Iraq. The political problem the Conservatives had was that this report had to be published, the machinery was already up and running,” he says.
Cameron himself said there would be no more “costly and open-ended” inquiries.
Ireland's Pro-British Unionist politicians struck a discordant note, however. One longtime critic of the inquiry, Gregory Campbell, who is a member of parliament for the hard-line pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), criticized the report, telling the parliament: “The sorry saga of this report is over and done with.”