It was one of the worst days of the decades-long Northern Ireland Troubles. In January 1972, 13 people were killed outright (a 14th victim died months later of wounds inflicted at the massacre) and another 15 people were wounded in Derry after members of the British Army opened fire on civil rights demonstrators. It came to be known as Bloody Sunday.
Although it happened nearly 50 years ago, and peace returned to Northern Ireland in the late '90s, the families of those killed have never wavered in seeking justice and prosecuting the troops who carried out the massacre. But, on Tuesday, Northern Ireland’s public prosecution service announced that there will be no further charges against any of the soldiers.
For years, the families of those killed were forced to live with the legacy of British Army claims that their loved ones had been terrorists. A public inquiry in 2010 found that the killings were “unjustified” and that none of the 14 who were killed was carrying a gun, no warnings were given before the shots rang out, and no soldiers were under threat.
Prosecutors concluded last year that only one British soldier, identified as Soldier F, should face court proceedings for their role in the killings. The families reacted with outrage to that decision, so the public prosecution service has spent the past year considering families’ appeals that 15 other soldiers should face prosecution for murder and attempted murder.
The PPS ruling came down Tuesday that there is “insufficient” evidence to charge any of the remaining suspects. “I know that today's outcome will cause further upset to those who have pursued a long and determined journey for justice over almost five decades,” said the PPS senior assistant director, Marianne O'Kane, who reviewed the cases.
Anticipating anger, the public prosecutor added, “I can only offer reassurance to all of the families and victims of Bloody Sunday, and the wider community, that my decisions were conducted wholly independently and impartially, and in accordance with the Code for Prosecutors.”
Kate Nash, whose brother William was killed on Bloody Sunday, said the decision will not stop her quest for justice. According to BBC News, Nash said, “I'm deeply disappointed that after a further review the correct decision's still not been reached... I intend to carry on what I've been doing.” Her legal representation said the Nash family would now be seeking a judicial review of the decision not to pursue more charges.
Northern Ireland’s most senior Irish nationalist lawmaker, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, called the decision “hugely disappointing,” and said “the denial of justice is unacceptable and must end.”
Soldier F is still awaiting trial on charges of murdering James Wray and William McKinney, and five counts of attempted murder. The British government previously pledged to provide full legal support to the former soldier, including paying his legal costs and welfare support.
Ten years ago, then British prime minister David Cameron issued a formal, state apology for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killings, saying that all of those who died on Bloody Sunday were innocent.