Bloody Sunday trial?

Should the former soldiers be prosecuted for the atrocity?

The Times

Bloody Sunday trial would be a mistake

Today Northern Ireland's prosecution service is expected to announce whether former British soldiers will be pursued for the Bloody Sunday shootings in Derry in 1972, which claimed 14 lives. The case raises again the vexatious question of how to prosecute atrocities from the Troubles, or whether to do so at all.

I'm on record as saying that we should not. Yes, they should be investigated, not least for clarity for the relatives, but to drag people into the dock now, and possibly into jail, seems counterproductive.

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Should the former British soldiers be prosecuted for the Bloody Sunday killings?

By Daniel J. McLaughlin

Bloody Sunday is a shameful day in British history. Almost 50 years ago, British soldiers fired shots into a crowd of unarmed civilians on a civil rights march, killing 14 people.

Only one former British paratrooper – known as Soldier F – is to be prosecuted in connection with Bloody Sunday.

Some believe that the case against the soldiers is "compelling" and they should not be above the law.

However, there are arguments that we should move on from the atrocity in Northern Ireland for the sake of the peace process.

The Claim

A reckoning is finally upon the British paratroopers who killed the unarmed civilians in Derry, according to the New Statesman's Martin Fletcher.

He argues that the case against the soldiers, if not their commanding officers, is "compelling". Fletcher said: "As representatives of the state they cannot be - or be seen to be - above the law, and should be held to a higher standard than paramilitaries."

Fletcher says that Bloody Sunday "fuelled the conflict" in Northern Ireland, and forced the government to impose direct rule on the province for the next 26 years.

He also argues that the tabloids and "other self-styled champions of law and order, patriotism and the military" should support a trial.

He said: "They should actively support the soldiers' prosecution, because the inquiry left no doubt that these hot-headed, trigger-happy paratroopers were a disgrace to the uniform.

"Their conduct on that shameful day, and their subsequent lies, did immense damage to the British army, the British state and the cause of peace in Northern Ireland."

The Counterclaim

However, The Times' Eamon Delaney argues that a Bloody Sunday trial would be a "mistake". He says that the peace process required difficult compromises, and moving on from the atrocity is one of them.

While Bloody Sunday should be investigated, especially for the clarity for relatives who lost loved ones on that day, Delaney argues that dragging people into the dock or even into jail would be "counterproductive".

He also notes that successive British governments have been set on "a rather pedantic and even vengeful attitude to past atrocities", adding: "They should let the past be."

Delaney concludes: "Full clarity about past atrocities is welcome, but charging people now for the actions of a conflict that is supposed to be over will not help things at all."

The Facts

On January 30, 1972, British soldiers fired into a crowd of unarmed civilians who were taking part in a civil rights march in Derry. There were 28 people shot in total - 13 of whom were killed, while another died from their wounds months later.

According to the Museum of Free Derry, some people were shot in the back as they tried to flee. A victim was shot a second time and killed as he lay injured, while others were shot as they tried to help the injured and dying.

About 15,000 people gathered in the Creggan area to protest against a new law that allowed the authorities to imprison people without trial, known as internment.

It was organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Protests had been banned, and troops were deployed to police the march. It was meant to end in the city centre, but the majority of demonstrators were directed towards Free Derry Corner in the Bogside.

At 4pm, soldiers responded to stones being thrown with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons. Soldiers from the Parachute Regiment started to arrest protesters. At 4.10pm, they began to open fire on the crowd.

According to the BBC, 21 soldiers fired their weapons, discharging 108 live rounds.

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