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A silent crowd lined the procession route for the funeral of Bloody Sunday victims in 1972
A silent crowd lined the procession route for the funeral of Bloody Sunday victims in 1972
Image: PA

Court awards over €300,000 to family of only woman shot and injured on Bloody Sunday in 1972

Margaret (Peggy) Deery died in 1988 after suffering throughout her life with the physical and mental impact of the shooting.
Apr 14th 2021, 5:27 PM 7,765 0

A JUDGE HAS awarded the equivalent of more than €300,000 to the family of a now deceased woman injured on Bloody Sunday almost half a century ago.

Margaret (Peggy) Deery died in 1988 after suffering throughout her life with the physical and mental impact of the shooting. The compensation claim against the UK Ministry of Defence was taken by her son, Anthony Deery, on behalf of her estate.

The High Court of Northern Ireland has now awarded the estate £250,000 in respect of her injuries, plus further sums relating to her subsequent care needs and inability to look after her 14 children.

The award included aggravated damages based on the exceptional “malevolence” of the soldiers involved.

The case goes back to the events of Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972, when soldiers killed 13 people in Derry and injured another 15, one of whom died later. Deery, the only woman hit, was shot in the left thigh at close range close to the Rossville flats.

Deery was 38 at the time of the shooting. Her husband had died from cancer four months previously, leaving her to care for 14 children.

The widow spent three months in hospital following the shooting and developed kidney failure after being transfused with what turned out to be incompatible blood. In the long term, her left foot was rendered “useless”. She developed depression, becoming unable to look after her family, and in later life was largely confined to her bedroom.

Deery’s eldest children left school aged 14 to care for their younger siblings. The court heard that the children used to wash bedsheets by jumping on them in the bath and hanging them in front of the fire for lack of a washing machine, “in an era prior to the provision of domestic care and home help by Social Services”.

Her daughter Helen, who was 13 at the time, told the court that before Bloody Sunday, her mother used to sing to the children and tell them bedtime stories. This stopped after the shooting.

Further tragedy struck the family with the deaths of Deery’s sons Michael in 1986 and Patrick in 1987. Deery herself passed away soon afterwards, aged 54.

The Saville Inquiry, which reported in 2010, found that Deery was an entirely innocent victim and that the soldier who shot her had knowingly given false evidence. But this came long after Deery had passed away, meaning that, as the judge put it, “the cloud of imputed culpability would, at least to some extent, have cast an intermittent shadow over her”.

In calculating damages, Mr Justice McAlinden said that the conduct of the soldiers was “imbued with a degree of malevolence and flagrancy which was truly exceptional”. As such, Deery’s family was entitled to aggravated damages of £25,000, on top of compensation for her kidney damage, mental illness and the leg injury itself.

That led to an award to Deery’s estate of £250,000, plus interest calculated from when the claim was issued in 2014.

The family also argued that there should be compensation for their care of their mother, and for the loss of care that she would have provided for them if not for her injury. The judge again found in their favour, awarding £17,000 (€19,500) for the cost of caring for the deceased, plus a sum to be decided for loss of her care to the family.

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The exact amount of the final award will be determined in the coming days.

Dr Brian Barry, a lecturer in law at TU Dublin, said that “the inclusion of aggravated damages is rare enough. Damages are generally exclusively geared towards compensating for tangible loss or injury to the injured party.

“However, the events of Bloody Sunday are undoubtedly in a category where the Court was right to consider not just the harm to those injured, but also to weigh up how the defendants conducted themselves”.

One British soldier is being prosecuted over the events of Bloody Sunday. In 2019, prosecutors decided that they could not bring criminal charges against 16 others, including the soldier who shot Deery. Their accounts to the Saville Inquiry could not be used against them in any trial, leaving “no evidence available to prove that they fired their weapons on Bloody Sunday”.

But as with the Real IRA members found liable in 2009 for the Omagh Bombing, civil cases for compensation relating to the Troubles can proceed even where criminal charges are not possible.

The Deery family’s solicitors and the UK Ministry of Defence have been approached for comment.

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CJ McKinney

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