Bloody Sunday soldiers should not be prosecuted: press

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Britain's press Wednesday welcomed an official apology over the fatal shooting of civilians in Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday, but warned against prosecuting soldiers involved in the killings.

Prime Minister David Cameron apologised Tuesday for the killing of 13 people by British troops at a civil rights march in Londonderry in 1972, after a long-awaited report on the shootings.

He called the killings "unjustified and unjustifiable," and the Guardian newspaper praised him for his "powerful, moving and fully justified words."

The inquiry concluded that none of the victims at the march were armed, soldiers gave no warnings before opening fire and that the shootings were a "catastrophe" for Northern Ireland, which led to increased violence.

But some commentators suggested prosecuting soldiers involved in the shootings would be a step too far, and would not be in the spirit of the troubled province's peace process.

Many republicans who fought against British rule were released from prison as part of agreements that have helped Northern Ireland achieve a fragile peace over the past decade.

The rightwing Sun said it was "a day of disgrace for the army."

But it added: "Nothing will be achieved, though, by dragging soldiers into court 38 years on.

"We emptied the prisons of IRA (Irish Republican Army) murderers as the price of reconciliation after the Good Friday Agreement," the 1998 peace deal that largely ended Northern Ireland's Troubles.

"How could we jail (soldiers) after freeing IRA killers?"

And the Times echoed this view: "The Good Friday agreement of 1998 came at a high moral price, which included the release of prisoners found guilty of terrible crimes.

"All parties made moral compromises with the past in the interests of a better future...

"In the same spirit, the authorities should now refrain from prosecutions."

The Bloody Sunday killings were among the most controversial in Northern Ireland's history and there had been fears the 5,000-page report could re-open old wounds.

More than 3,500 people died during The Troubles, which pitched Catholics against Protestants and were largely ended by the 1998 peace deal, but emotions still run high in Northern Ireland over its violent history.

© 2010 AFP

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