‘The immediate responsibility for the deaths and injuries on Bloody Sunday lies with those members of Support Company whose unjustifiable firing was the cause of those deaths and injuries,’ the Saville report stated yesterday.
It added: ‘The question remains, however, as to whether others also bear direct or indirect responsibility for what happened.’
However, Saville added: ‘In the light of the situation that obtained in Londonderry in early 1972 (which we discuss in detail in this report), we do not criticise General Ford for deciding to deploy soldiers to arrest rioters, though in our view his decision to use 1 PARA as the arrest force is open to criticism, on the ground that 1 PARA was a force with a reputation for using excessive physical violence, which thus ran the risk of exacerbating the tensions between the Army and nationalists in Londonderry.’
The report added: ‘The early firing in William Street resulted in two wounded casualties, neither of whom was doing anything that justified either of them being shot.’
It said: ‘The soldiers of Support Company who went into the Bogside did so as the result of an order by Colonel Wilford, which should not have been given and which was contrary to the orders that he had received from Brigadier MacLellan.’
The report added: ‘We have concluded that the explanation for such firing by Support Company soldiers after they had gone into the Bogside was in most cases probably the mistaken belief among them that republican paramilitaries were responding in force to their arrival in the Bogside . . . .
‘The firing by soldiers of 1 PARA on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury.’
Announcing the report, Prime Minister Cameron told MPs in the House of Commons: ‘I never want to call into question the behaviour of our soldiers and our Army who I believe to be the finest in the world.’
He admitted: ‘But the conclusions of this report are absolutely clear . . . . What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable.’
Cameron added that Saville concludes ‘that “none of the casualties shot by soldiers of Support Company was armed with a firearm . . .” and that “in no case was any warning given before soldiers opened fire”.’
But Cameron insisted: ‘Those looking for premeditation, those looking for a plan, those looking for a conspiracy involving senior politicians or senior members of the Armed Forces – they will not find it in this Report.
Indeed, Lord Saville finds no evidence that the events of Bloody Sunday were premeditated . . . . He concludes that the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Governments, and the Army, neither tolerated nor encouraged “the use of unjustified lethal force”.
‘He makes no suggestion of a Government cover-up.’
Thousands had marched to the Guildhall in Derry carrying pictures of the 14 Bloody Sunday dead and 54 injured.
Giving his response to the report Mikey McKinney told the crowd: ‘My 27-year-old brother was murdered by British paratroopers in Derry. This is an historic day for Derry.’
Tony Docherty, son of Paddy Docherty, killed aged 31, said: ‘Unjustified and unjustifiable. Those are the words we have been waiting to hear since 1972.
‘It can now be proclaimed to the world that the Parachute Regiment are the frontline assassins for the British establishment.’
He added: ‘Bloody Sunday was the price the Bogside paid for a free Derry.’