Inquiry: Bloody Sunday Killings Were Unjust
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Thirty-eight years ago, British soldiers fired on Catholic civil rights protestors in Londonderry in Northern Ireland. It became known as Bloody Sunday. The events of that day left 14 dead and contributed to decades of sectarian strife.
T: All the victims were innocent. Vicki Barker reports from London.
VICKI BARKER: The English judge, Lord Saville, spent 12 years and nearly $300 million reconstructing the events of that January day in 1972. His conclusion: British soldiers in Northern Ireland knowingly fired on unarmed demonstrators and then lied about it. Today, nearly 40 years later, Britain's new prime minister, David Cameron, stood before Parliament and apologized.
P: There is no doubt. There is nothing equivocal. There are no ambiguities. What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable.
BARKER: Cameron's statement was shown on video screens to a large crowd outside Londonderry's town hall while TV helicopters circled overhead. As he read out Lord Saville's conclusions and the magnitude of the findings became clear, there were tears and sobs from the crowd.
P: He finds that on balance, the first shot in the vicinity of the march was fired by the British Army. He finds that there was some firing by Republican paramilitaries, but none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties. And he finds that in no case was any warning given by soldiers before opening fire.
BARKER: The horror of that day was rekindled. One victim was shot in the face, another in the back as he crawled away. A father was gunned down as he bent over his dying son. Lord Saville found nothing to support the soldiers' sometimes inconsistent claims that the victims were armed with nail or gasoline bombs.
Then, the crowd in Londonderry heard a roll call of the vindicated dead.
U: Barney McGuigan posed no threat whatsoever and would be celebrating his 80th birthday tomorrow. The truth is Barney is innocent.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
BARKER: Kate Nash(ph) lost her father and her brother.
BLOCK: My brother William, we know he was innocent. We've always known. Now the world knows.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
BARKER: Lord Saville said British soldiers had given false testimony to justify the shootings. He found no evidence that Bloody Sunday was part of a deliberate conspiracy.
The judge did not use words like murder or unlawful killing. David Cameron said that was a matter for public prosecutors to decide.
For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.