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Bloody Sunday 50: The long and continuing fight for justice

A major memorial event is to take place in the city today.

A mural in the Bogside area of Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly.
A mural in the Bogside area of Derry depicting Dr Edward Daly.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

TODAY IS THE anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry that left 13 people dead on 30 January 1972. 

A major memorial event is to take place in the city today, with the final Sunday in January this year also the 30th of the month as it was in 1972

The commemorative event Beyond the Silence will take place before a limited audience in Guildhall Square.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Micheal Martin and former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are among those taking part. 

Corbyn, a long time supporter of the Bloody Sunday families, yesterday delivered the 2022 Bloody Sunday Memorial Lecture at Derry’s Guildhall. 

The Guildhall was the location for most of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, which in 2010 found that none of the casualties were posing a threat or doing anything that would justify their shooting.

It said no warning was given to any civilians before the soldiers opened fire and that none of the soldiers fired in response to attacks by petrol bombers or stone throwers.

The inquiry found there was “some firing by republican paramilitaries” but that on balance the British Army fired first. 

Here are some of the key dates in the decades-long campaign for justice by the families

– 30 January 1972

The Parachute Regiment opens fire on a crowd taking part in a civil rights march in Derry, killing 13 people and injuring 15 others

– April 1972

An inquiry led by Chief Justice Lord Widgery supports the soldiers’ version of events, that they were returning fire. Bereaved families dismiss the report as a whitewash.

– February 1992

First meeting of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign.

– January 1994

The campaign writes to prime minister John Major seeking a full independent inquiry.

– February 1994

Major refuses because there has already been a public inquiry by Widgery.

– January 1997

A 40,000-signature petition calling for a new inquiry is delivered by the campaign to 10 Downing Street.

– January 1998

Prime minister Tony Blair announces a new inquiry, with Lord Saville of Newdigate appointed to chair the probe.

– November 2000-September 2002

The Saville Inquiry hears oral evidence.

– August 2001

Soldiers announce they will seek a judicial review of the decision of the inquiry that military witnesses must give their evidence in Derry.

– December 2001

The Court of Appeal rules that the soldiers can give evidence in London.

– September 2002-October 2003

The inquiry is held in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.

– October 2003-November 2004

The inquiry moves back to Derry.

– June 2010

Saville delivers his findings that there was no justification for shooting any of those killed or wounded. Prime minister David Cameron issues a public apology. saying the killings were “unjustified and unjustifiable”.

– July 2012

The Police Service of Northern Ireland formally launches a murder investigation into the events of Bloody Sunday.

–  August 2016

Edward Daly, the Catholic priest who famously waved a white flag while trying to aid the wounded on Bloody Sunday, died aged 82. 

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– September-October 2018

The first UK Ministry of Defence compensation settlement in relation to Bloody Sunday victims is awarded.

– March 2019

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announces that one former soldier, known as Soldier F, will be prosecuted for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell.

Sixteen other former soldiers and two suspected ex-members of the Official IRA, all of whom were also investigated as part of the major police murder probe, will not face prosecution.

– April 2019

Protests in support of Soldier F take place across the UK.

– September 2019

The case against Soldier F is heard in court for the first time at a sitting of Derry Magistrates’ Court.

The former soldier was not present in court for the short hearing.

– April 2021

The families of five of those killed announce that they will legally challenge the decision of the PPS not to prosecute five veterans.

The families of Jackie Duddy, Michael Kelly, John Young, Michael McDaid and William McKinney are granted permission by the High Court to challenge decisions not to prosecute several other former members of the Parachute Regiment.

– July 2021

The PPS announces it is discontinuing the prosecution of Soldier F for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney amid concerns that the case could collapse in light of a separate court ruling on the admissibility of evidence which caused the collapse of another Troubles murder trial involving two military veterans.

The McKinney family signal their intent to challenge the PPS decision on Soldier F in the courts.

The leader of the SDLP Colum Eastwood MP  use parliamentary privilege to name Soldier F in the House of Commons. 

– September 2021

The various legal challenges against the PPS are heard together before three senior judges. Decisions not to prosecute five soldiers are challenged. Judgment is reserved and has yet to be delivered.

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