N.Ireland leader urges 'close the book' on Bloody Sunday

16th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Northern Ireland leader Peter Robinson called on authorities Wednesday not to prosecute soldiers named in a report on Bloody Sunday, urging the troubled province to "close the book" on the episode.

His comments came a day after the publication of the long-awaited Saville report into one of the province's darkest chapters, in which 13 people were shot dead by British soldiers at a march in Londonderry in 1972.

"I have to say that I do not believe there's anything to be gained by prosecutions at this stage," Robinson, the province's first minister, told AFP.

"We have finished this chapter. We should close the book and we should move on as a society and get the healing within our community that is so much needed."

After the report's publication, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service said it was considering whether to prosecute anyone in relation to the shootings but gave no date for when a decision would be taken.

Opinion has been sharply divided over whether to bring charges following the report's publication, which concluded that none of the victims were armed and soldiers gave no warnings before opening fire.

While some relatives have called for the soldiers to be hauled before the courts, other commentators have argued doing so would be unfair and even undermine hard-won peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

John Kelly, whose brother Michael was shot dead on Bloody Sunday, said he thought there was now a "big possibility" soldiers could be charged with murder or at least perjury after the report found many had lied to the inquiry.

"My young brother was murdered on Bloody Sunday and Soldier F murdered him and was responsible for three other deaths that day. He was killing at will and got away with it," Kelly told AFP.

He was referring to a soldier, identified only by his rank and an initial in the report, who shot his brother and several others and who Kelly describes as a "serial killer".

"Serial killers are prosecuted and serial killers go to jail and as far as I'm concerned, that's where soldier F should go, to jail," he added.

But a lawyer who represented troops at the 12-year Bloody Sunday inquiry insisted the findings did not open the door for prosecutions and accused top judge Mark Saville, who led it, of having "cherry picked" evidence.

"I think Lord Saville felt under very considerable pressure after 12 years and 191 million pounds to give a report which gave very clear findings even where in truth the evidence didn't support them," said Stephen Pollard.

"What he has had to do is adopt the pieces of evidence that fit the theory and abandon those that don't."

A group of six soldiers present on the day have spoken up to defend Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, a now-dead senior officer who was heavily criticised for sending soldiers in to the area where the killings took place.

They have suggested that he has been singled out because someone of rank had to be blamed, the BBC reported.

There are also calls for a wider body to be set up to investigate other killings in Northern Ireland during the three decade-long Troubles, which pitched Catholics against Protestants and left some 3,500 people died.

The violence was largely ended by a 1998 peace deal but emotions still run high in Northern Ireland -- which is part of the United Kingdom along with England, Wales and Scotland -- over its violent history.

The inquiry, the longest-running and most expensive yet in Britain, cost more than 190 million pounds (275 million dollars, 230 million euros), and was commissioned by then British premier Tony Blair in 1998 as the peace process gained momentum.

© 2010 AFP

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