The jury is out (for some)

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.

The DUP’s Peter Robinson has called for no prosecutions

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.

Though Gregory Campbell says if prosecutions do take place Martin McGuinness should be first:

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.

A UUP representative claims prosecutions could be a blow to the ‘peace process’:

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”.

Sinn Féin have not ruled out supporting a campaign for prosecutions:

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.

SF initially supported that bill, then in short order withdrew support following a campaign by the SDLP and Victims Groups.

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.

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  • Neil

    I just find myself wondering how a Unionist could explain the suggestion that if a Para is found to have shot a man in the back while he lay fatally wounded on the ground, he should not be prosecuted, while at the same time saying that if a Republican were found to have executed someone in the same situation that that individual should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law?

    The truth is Unionism has always played both cards at once, while determined to ensure that the representatives of their side of the community should be protected from punishment while demanding that the other side be jailed forthwith, and any enquiry which finds innocent Catholics have been murdered in cold blood is simply a case of Republicans re-writing history, especially taken in the wider context (Unionists love the wider context don’t ye know) of the fact that history was written at the time by the likes of Widgery who blamed innocent Catholics for causing their own deaths and allowed soldiers off with murder.

    I don’t take any part in suggesting that individual Paras should be brought to book over their crimes, that’s one for the families of the victims. I just wonder how the hypocrisy can be justified?

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Yes I agree, Unionists politicians always seem to ask themselves what is least resonable and untenable position they can adopt – and then adopt it.

    If Unionists had any sense, or dare I say consistency, they would be arguing for prosecutions in order to justify prosecuting those they really want to get at.

    ps I suppose Nationalism can be relieved that if it had to actually pick a political enemy then they would always go for the stupidest one avaialble and they would still end up with Unionism.

  • Bulmer

    As usual both sides want the other side to feel the full force of the law. This gets us nowhere.

    Unless we want to be pursuing IRA murderers for the next 40 years the country has to draw a line somewhere and sort out some South African style truth and reconciliation council.

    The matter has now come to a head as the Paras unlike McG’s comrades are easy to pick up. For the Unionists the choice is either to continue an eye for an eye or turn the other cheek. For Republicans…it’s the same choice. Either we hound everyone linked to terrorism like the Nazis for the next 40 years. Or we grow up.

    As usual Robinson provides as much leadership as a brick wall. But maybe Martin McG, if he truly believes that the place has to move on together can actually get away from the Old Testament and revenge and realise this cannot fester for decades. If he really does push the revenge angle he may may find its pushing the wrong buttons for SF.

    For the Republicans who are doing the usual dishing of Unionists work out the consequences of prosecuting the paras. It will be demand for proper investigation into hundreds of IRA atrocities. And it will come from England as well.

    Is that really what we want? What future is there if every year there’s another show trial of a pensioner?

  • Michael

    If the army welcome back into their ranks Lee Clegg but kick out Charles Ingram I think we all know how this will end.

  • madraj55

    ‘Unionists love that wider context don’t ye know’
    That’s right, Neil. Except when it comes to extending the date the troubles started back to october ’68. That would mean they were to blame, so that’s a no no.

  • jim

    the IRA murdered more catholics than the army n loyalists put together

  • mark

    Surely the choices are starkly simple – either everyone must be prosecuted for their crimes (on the understanding that sufficient proof will be in short supply even when we ‘know’ who did it) or we choose to grant some form of amnesty to everyone – perhaps on the condition of an admission of guilt.

    Anything less would be rightly seen as a farce. The question is which is the lesser of the two evils?

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Even this year, there was a trial of a nazi in connection to crimes committed during World War II. I don’t doubt that sixty years from now there may be such a trial concerning a murder commited during the troubles.

    As some one who would like to see all those responsible for murder brought to justice, this is of some comfort. But in all likelihood such cases will be few and far between, and because they are protected by the state, probably not a single prosecution of soliders.

  • Clanky

    The families have had the names of their loved ones cleared, the lies told about them for years have been proven to be such. While there can be no doubt that those responsible are guilty of crimes I think it is time to move on and start to put the past firmly where it belongs, in the past.

    I think a gesture of magnanimity from the families and from the nationalist / republican community at large would go a long way to making (at least the more moderate) unionists realise that everyone needs to look to the future and that the whole culture of demanding retribution for past wrongs does no-one any favours.

    Unfortunately there is probably too much money at stake for there ever to be a realistic chance that this will happen.

  • sam

    It would be madness for Unionist to get involved with a truth commission. The security forces would end up in the dock trying to justify their actions while the IRA will do what have done for the last thirty years namely refuse to answer questions or lie.

  • Alias

    Utter gibberish. It’s akin to arguing that a rape victim being called a slut by the friends of the rapist should spend a few years arguing about whether or not she is a slut rather than calling for a trial for her rapist for the crime of rape, and then when the friends stop calling her a slut, arguing that it would now be magnamious of to forget all about seeking justice for rape, conflating the resolution of the minor consequence matter with resolution of the unresolved substantial matter. The only folks who gain from putting her head in that spin is the rapist and his friends.

  • Alias

    But aren’t you all one big united nation now? So it shouldn’t matter if it is PIRA or Para in the dock. As Widgery and Saville showed, Para is just as prone to lying and omerta as PIRA.

  • Bulmer

    The only gibberish is your analogy which makes as much sense as John Prescott in full flood.

    In fact the victims families did appear to be of the viewpoint that enough was enough. I wonder if they will be pressurised to start demanding prosecutions. It’s not justice that will served but vegeance.

    But how can it be anyone’s interest to spend the next 40 years reminding everyone that they have the capacity for utter evil? It#s not bringing closure if it actually perpetuates hate into the next generation

  • Bulmer

    About 1980 I did a tally of the number of people I knew who had died in the troubles at that point. It hit 40. It included family and friends. As far as I am aware none of the murderers have ever been in court (and it includes both sets of thugs).

    Whilst there isn’t going to be closure, there isn’t any point in stretching out the unlikely chance that somewhere in time someone will be prosecuted. All the perpetrators are at least in their 50s. We all know of stories of how well they sleep at night.

    I don’t accept that Ulster is so backward and uncivilised that it can’t do what South Africa did. I’d like to know who killed my aunt, but nearly 40 years on putting someone in jail isn’t going to give me closure. And I don’t believe in vengeance.

    If we are Christian even in values whatever happened to the power of redemption in healing wounds? And that includes the perpetrators who haven’t been caught but might want to at least try and aplogise for their actions. I suspect a large number want to atone.

    Where are the Christian values we keep hearing about? Or is it in reality all talk?

  • Alias

    Some of them have been conditioned to that perspective by those who serve the interests of the British state, but those who remain comitted to securing justice for their loved ones are seeking that justice from the state that continues to deny it to them. For example, the McKinney, Duddy, Nash and Young families are seeking the help of the Irish government to secure prosecutions.

    However, the British state’s Code of Omerta continues to apply, and that State has signalled that it intends to continue its security policy of failing to prosecute state actors who murder its own citizens – mainly because of what might come out in the wash about the level of the state’s covert support for its murder policy.

    In regard to the state murder gang in question, 90% of the state’s citizens who were killed by its armed forces were killed by the Paras, so that unit’s involement in BS was far from being a “one off” that was “out of character” as the State now finds it expedient to protray it as being.

    It remains the case that those who called the rape victim a slut have merely withdrawn that label, and are proffering that withdrawal as ‘justice’ for her – since it is all that they intend to offer to her.

  • Nunoftheabove


    I am sorry to hear about your personal loss however seeking solace in Christianity is a very bad idea indeed; we would likely have a much lower bodycount in Ireland, if indeed any body count at at all, had it not been for a malign influence of religion. I respect your right to believe whatever you wish but these hard cold facts do I’m afraid need to be faced if this society is to move on and the false consolations of religion won’t provide for any possible basis for progress.

  • bulmer

    I’m an agnostic.

    But most people in Ulster profess (and mostly understand) Christian values, the positive ones like love and forgiveness.

    It would be a sad society missing these aspects whatever it believed.

  • Nunoftheabove


    Loving or forgiving requires no religious dimension at all; any suggestion that we get these values from christianity (or must have any understanding of, or belief in, christianity) must be repudiated. These are humanist values appropriated and betimes entirely distorted by the christian churches and their peer snakeoil salesmen in Islam, Juddaism etc etc..