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'After 47 years, this is a moment': Anxious wait for families before Bloody Sunday announcement

“Putting a soldier in jail wouldn’t make me happy whatsoever,” Kevin McKinney says, whose father was shot dead in 1972.

FROM JIM WRAY’S grave in a cemetery overlooking Derry, his brother Liam can see the exact spot in the Bogside where the 22-year-old fell after being gunned down by a British Paratrooper on 30 January 1972.

Jim was shot twice as he ran for cover in Glenfada Park. Two witnesses to the Saville Inquiry said he was laying on the ground, wounded, when a soldier fired the shot which ended his life.

Today his family, and the families of the other 13 people killed on Bloody Sunday, will hear if the soldiers who fired upon them will face prosecution over the killings.

Jim’s brother Liam (65) says that the family have waited a lifetime for this day. He says they have never given up fighting for justice for the man they knew as ‘the gentle giant’ and his anxiety is rising as day looms.

“There is an anticipation and anxiety,” he says. “After 47 years obviously this is a moment in time that our family have, from day one, always demanded happen. It will be a big day when we hear the news and we just hope that it won’t be a big disappointment.

I am caught up with those emotions – hope and a little bit of fear over what will happen now.

Bloody Sunday prosecutions Julieann Campbell stands beside an image of her late uncle Jackie Duddy (17) and the white handkerchief used by Father Edward Daly on Bloody Sunday. Source: The Museum of Free Derry/PA Images

On 30 January 1972, in what would become known as Bloody Sunday, British soldiers fired into a crowd of unarmed civilians who were taking part in a civil rights march in the bogside in Derry.

In all, 28 people were shot. 13 people died while another person succumbed to their injuries a number of months later. The Widgery Tribunal was held immediately afterwards and largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.

A second investigation, the Saville Inquiry, was set up in 1998; in 2010 the report was published, and found that the killings were both “unjustified” and “unjustifiable”. The Prime Minister at the time David Cameron apologised on behalf of the UK.

The relatives of those killed have been seeking justice for their family members; it’s expected that the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service will announce today whether charges will be brought against the British soldiers involved.

The looming possibility of prosecutions has caused some controversy lately, prompting people like former British minister Boris Johnson to defend the soldiers and claim that prosecutions could mean the IRA would “get away” with crimes committed during The Troubles.

Last week, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley came under increased pressure to resign after saying that the killings committed by the British military and police during The Troubles “were not crimes”.

She has since repeatedly apologised for her remarks, in the media and to the House of Commons, saying that she did not mean what she said.

On Tuesday night, ahead of the second Meaningful Vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the British Ministry of Defence announced that its legal fees would be “entirely” paid by the UK government.

Bloody Sunday prosecutions Mickey McKinney stands beside the Bloody Sunday Memorial in the Bogside. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Kevin McKinney’s 35-year-old father Gerard was shot in the chest in Abbey Street in the Bogside. Witnesses said that when he saw a soldier, he stopped and held up his arms, shouting “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”, before being gunned down. The bullet went through the father-of-eight’s body and struck and killed 17-year-old Gerard Donaghy behind him.

Kevin, who was just 11-years-old when his father was killed, says that his family have forgiven the soldier, that he “was not to blame, rather it was the British establishment who sent him there”.

He says the British government, politicians and all those involved in the day’s killings should be put on trial and that the “soldier played only a small part in a bigger machine”.

“Putting a soldier in jail wouldn’t make me happy whatsoever,” he says.

Put the British establishment on trial, as well as the unionist politicians of the day who were instrumental in the organisation of the paratroopers coming in. 

“Those are the people who should be put on trial. It will never happen though.

“Our faith is very strong,” he says. “Whatever these soldiers did, they will have to answer to God.”

Bloody Sunday prosecutions Tourists are shown Derry's Bogside murals, Operation Motorman: The Summer Invasion (left) and The Runner. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Kate Nash (69) lost her brother William on Bloody Sunday. The 19-year-old dock worker was shot in the chest near the Rossville Street barricade. His dad Alex saw his son being shot and went to help him, and was then shot himself.

Nash says her stomach is “in knots” waiting for today’s news on prosecutions. She has dedicated her entire life to being a voice for her brother and says the families, “just want justice”.

“I want prosecutions and I want convictions,” she says. “My view is that whatever a judge decides is punishment, I will accept. I want murder convictions, that is what is important to me.

“The sentence would not be important to me, it is the prosecution and conviction. That would give me a little closure because it is a burden too. There’s a constant struggle in my mind and thinking ‘how dare they do this’, all the emotions you go through.

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“I hear politicians talking about jailing this one and that one, but not soldiers, because they shouldn’t have to face that. What makes them special that they shouldn’t have to face it?

My view is no matter who you are talking about, if you can find evidence of a crime then go get them. I wouldn’t deny justice to anyone.

Bloody Sunday prosecutions John Kelly whose brother 17 year old Michael was killed in Derry on Bloody Sunday. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

John Kelly lost his 17-year-old younger brother brother Michael that day. He says his mother never got over her teenage son’s death.

“Michael was standing with a group of other boys at a barricade in the Bogside,” he said.

“The soldiers opened fire and hit Michael in the stomach. I helped to carry my brother to the ambulance and I still remember checking him in the back of the ambulance and hoping that he would survive. We brought him into the casualty area and the doctor came along with a nurse and checked him before pronouncing him dead. I remember asking the doctor to check him again to be sure. But he said he was sorry, he was gone.

“My mother never got over Michael’s death. She was so devastated by his death she wasn’t capable of looking after herself. She visited the cemetery every single day. There was one time she walked to the cemetery with a blanket under her arm and when someone asked her where she was going, she said she was taking it to Michael’s grave to keep him warm.

She kept everything belonging to him, the clothes he died in, his school text books. I have a Mars Bar that is 47 years old that she bought him that Sunday, and he never got to eat it.

John says that he is hopeful of prosecutions for the soldier who took his teenage brother’s life.

“This is the major day for us in that hopefully we will achieve prosecutions of those who murdered our loved ones,” he says. “What I want is the prosecution of the soldier who murdered my brother. He was a young innocent boy. I want the soldier convicted and I want him to go to jail. I see things quite simply, if anyone is convicted of murder they are sent to jail for life and I believe that should happen here also.

“We have been living this for 47 years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have done a lot of hard work over the years to get to where we are today. Certainly we hope that it will all have been worthwhile.”

Across the city in the Waterside, the DUP’s Gregory Campbell says the unionist community feel “angry over double standards”. He says that soldier prosecutions will set a “bad precedent” and that the two soldiers killed in the city by the IRA in the days before Bloody Sunday “have been totally forgotten”.

“It appears that there is a hierarchy of victimhood,” he says. “Because there are some relatives of victims who seem to get an inordinate amount of money, resources, investigations and now possibly challenges in court to lead to conviction or whatever, whereas for others there are none of that.

“There is nothing that displays a hierarchy of victimhood more than that.

So there is anger that there is a two-speed system of justice, whereas the infinitesimally small number of people who were killed by the state services compared to those killed at the hand of terrorists – like at Claudy, Le Mon, Kingsmill – get very little if any attention paid to them, and certainly no prosecutions.

“And this week we will again see evidence of double standards.”

- with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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Leona O'Neill

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