Guardian.co.uk - Bloody Sunday - PM Apologizes
David Cameron today issued a formal apology on behalf of the state for the “unjustified and unjustifiable” killing of 14 civil rights marchers by British soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Derry 38 years ago.
The prime minister said the Lord Saville inquiry’s long-awaited report showed soldiers lied about their involvement in the killings, and that all of those who died were innocent.
He said the inquiry was “absolutely clear” and there were “no ambiguities” about the conclusions.
Cameron told the Commons: “What happened on Bloody Sunday was both unjustified and unjustifiable. It was wrong.”
Relatives cheered as they watched the statement, relayed to screens outside the Guildhall in Derry.
Bloody Sunday, as the events on 30 January 30 1972 came to be known, was one of the most controversial moments of the Troubles. Paratroopers opened fire while trying to police a banned civil rights march.
They killed 13 marchers outright, and wounded another 13, one of whom subsequently died later in hospital.
The conclusions of the 5,000-page, 10-volume report, which took 12 years to compile at a cost of almost £191m, prompted the first formal apology to victims’ families in almost four decades.
The prime minister began his statement by saying he was deeply patriotic and did not want to believe anything bad about his country. But he said that the conclusion of the 12-year inquiry were “absolutely clear”. He went on to outline the findings of the inquiry before making the apology.
“The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces, and for that, on behalf of the government and on behalf of the country, I am deeply sorry.”
The inquiry found that the order that sent British soldiers into the Bogside “should not have been given”, said Cameron.
It found none of those killed by British soldiers was armed with firearms and no warning was given by the soldiers.
Cameron said the casualties were down to the soldiers “losing their self control”. Some soldiers had “knowingly put forward false accounts” to the inquiry.
Lord Saville uses the word “unjustifiable” repeatedly throughout the report to describe the fatal shootings carried out by the parachute regiment – a judgment that opens up the possibility of legal action against soldiers involved in the atrocity.
In terms of declaring the Bloody Sunday dead innocent, the report concludes: “None of the firing by the Support Company (paratroopers) was aimed at people posing a threat or causing death or serious injury.”
While the report clears the 14 civilians killed that day, it appears to exonerate some of the army officers who were in charge of the military operation.
The report finds that Lieutenant Colonel Wilford blatantly ignored the advice of senior military commanders not to send troops into the Bogside.
Many of the soldiers lied to the inquiry, Lord Saville also concludes in his report. “Many of these soldiers have knowingly put forward false accounts in order to seek to justify their firing.”
Under the rules of the inquiry this conclusion means that soldiers can also be prosecuted for perjury. Lord Saville said that on Bloody Sunday there had been “a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline among the soldiers”.
Reacting to the report, a former priest who was on the fated march 38 years ago, Denis Bradley, said: “The city has been vindicated, the city has been telling the truth about Bloody Sunday all along.”
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