The Tory-led coalition government yesterday protested against leaks which revealed that the Saville Inquiry report into Bloody Sunday has found that some of the deaths were ‘unlawful killings’, and that therefore there is a basis for criminal cases.
Thirteen people on a peaceful civil rights march were shot dead, and 27 civilians were injured, when paratroops opened fire in Derry on 30 January 1972.
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Office said: ‘The report will be published in a few days and everyone can read it then.
‘The people directly affected by all of this – the families of those killed and injured, and the soldiers – have waited a long time for this report, and speculation of this kind only adds to the stress and anxiety that they must all feel.’
Welcoming the forthcoming publication on Tuesday, John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother Michael was shot to death on Bloody Sunday said: ‘Saville is about setting the truth free.
‘We want a declaration of innocence for our people.’
Linda Roddy’s 19-year-old brother Willie Nash was killed that day, while her father, Alex, was wounded by gunfire as he tended to his dying son.
She said: ‘I never stop thinking about it for a single day.
‘I just want this inquiry to say publicly that my brother and my father were not gunmen or bombers.’
The Saville Inquiry was set up by the Blair government after the outcry over the original 1972 whitewash report by another English judge, Lord Widgery.
Widgery had suggested that some of the protesters were armed.
Ulster Unionist David Trimble has said he advised Blair not to go ahead with the Saville inquiry, because ‘if you moved one millimetre from that conclusion (by Widgery), you were into the area of manslaughter, if not murder.’
One of the ex-paratroopers who gave evidence to the Saville inquiry, ‘Soldier 027’, told the inquiry that soldiers in his company had been encouraged to ‘get some kills’ the night before Bloody Sunday, and that this had been seen as ‘tantamount to an order’.
He is still living under a witness protection programme and is fearful that he is at risk of attack by some of his former comrades.
When he gave evidence, ‘Soldier 027’ had already entered a protection programme, organised by Scotland Yard and funded by the Northern Ireland Office.
He claimed his comrades carried out ‘unspeakable acts’ with ‘no justification’ when they shot dead 13 unarmed men on Bloody Sunday.
In his written statement to the inquiry he stated: ‘There was an element of enjoying the violence of the situation. We were all, to various degrees, brutalised by it.’
He believed two soldiers in particular, ‘Lance Corporal F’ and ‘Soldier G’, were responsible for triggering the shooting, and that between them they killed eight or ten people.
He described when ‘Lance Corporal F’ kneeled in front of him and opened fire on the crowd, and other soldiers joined in.
‘Soldier 027’ said: ‘Two people towards the centre of the barricade fell within seconds of each other in the opening burst of fire.
‘I did not see anyone with a weapon or see or hear an explosive device. I have a clear memory of consciously thinking “what are they firing at?” and feeling some inadequacy. What was I not seeing that I ought to be seeing.’
He added: ‘One chap, a full corporal whose name I cannot recall, ran up beside me pushing between two other soldiers who were firing, so that he could commence firing himself.
‘He indicated to me that he thought what was happening was great. He was exuberant.
‘I had the distinct impression that this was a case of some soldiers realising this was an opportunity to fire their weapon and they didn’t want to miss the chance.
‘The level of shooting grew as more soldiers arrived.’