With the publication of the Saville Report focus is now shifting to the possibility of prosecutions, some paratroopers are already under investigation by the Public Prosecutions Service over perjury at the inquiry but it is unknown if any criminal investigations and/or prosecutions will take place over events on the day.
I think from a political point of view I have to say that I do not believe that there is anything to be gained by prosecutions at this stage and don’t believe that it would be possible to get the standard of evidence that would be necessary to secure a prosecution.
What we know is that he was involved in the IRA leadership in Derry at a time when many people were killed – so I would suggest that if the soldiers who opened fire on Bloody Sunday are to face charges – they need to follow in behind Mr McGuinness who would have to be first in line.
The UUP man told the News Letter he believed the evidence offered in yesterday’s Saville Report was “taken out of context”, and said speculation that soldiers could now be prosecuted for their role in the shootings “would be a massive blow to the peace process”.
Mr McGuinness added that he wasn’t sure whether there would be a campaign for prosecutions of soldiers, but said he would support the families of those killed.
“People will wait to see how the families take this forward… they will have to decide how they will go forward.”
He added that whatever their decision he was “duty bound to support them
At this point it is interesting to return to reactions in 2005 to the binned NI Offences Bill which would have dealt with not only on-the-run IRA members but British State forces facing historic charges.
Unionists now calling for immunity from prosecutions for Paratroopers also rejected the Bill which would have essentially included the immunity they are now suggesting. At the time they claimed the Bill was ‘an insult’ (UUP), ‘grotesque’ (Alliance) and reacted with ‘disgust and revulsion’ (DUP) to the idea of amnesties.
As the PPS deals with the perjury issue consideration of prosecution over the events of Bloody Sunday could initially fall on two desks – theirs and that of Historic Enquiries Team who are tasked with investing ‘troubles’ deaths between 1969 – 1998. However, the likelihood of the HET successfully launching an investigation with subsequent prosecutions seem slim given the only cases coming from them that have gone to trial relate to the murder of Tommy English in Oct 2000 (which strangely seems outside their investigative remit by the date it took place).
The only historic prosecution over events prior to 1998 is the ongoing trial of Gerry McGeough and Vincent McAnespie .
So it remains to be seen how this circle is squared of several parties arguing for de facto amnesties for their favoured group and supporting prosecutions in other cases.
With the trial of McGeough and McAnespie continuing one thing we can be sure of is all republicans don’t enjoy immunity while some people are suggesting British state forces should and so far they do.