Almost four decades after the deaths of 13 people on the streets of Londonderry's Bogside, publication of the report into the incident has been set for 15 June. Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary said the report compiled by Lord Saville, 12 years in the making, will be shown several hours in advance to the families of those killed and injured.
Soldiers directly involved in the events of 30 January, most of whom were members of the Parachute Regiment, will also have the opportunity to see the report hours before publication.
The inquiry was set up in 1998 by Tony Blair, who found the original report by Lord Chief Justice Lord Widgery unsatisfactory. So far no leaks have taken place as to what Lord Saville has concluded, and as to what criticisms he may make of the military and political authorities and of republicans.
The senior judge heard evidence from more than 900 witnesses, including politicians and military figures. In all 160 volumes of data were assembled – around 30 million words. Lord Saville's conclusions will be lengthy and complex.
There will be keen interest in whether he will accept or reject evidence given to him by Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, then a senior IRA figure in Londonderry and now deputy head of Belfast's Government. He insisted that while he and other IRA figures were at the civil rights march, they were unarmed and had fired no shots. Soldiers maintained otherwise.
In a combative statement yesterday Mr McGuinness declared: "The families of those murdered on Bloody Sunday have fought a long and difficult campaign for the truth about the events in Derry 38 years ago. The lies of Widgery need to be exposed and buried and the truth of what happened when the British Parachute Regiment came to Derry and murdered people on our streets needs to be told."
Opinions differ among the families of those killed and injured, many of whom regularly attended the years of hearings of the Saville Tribunal at Londonderry's Guildhall. The main demand of some is a declaration of innocence of those who were shot, ideally from Lord Saville and Prime Minister David Cameron, who is due to make a statement in the Commons when the report is published. Other families are seeking the prosecution of paratroopers and others. These differing views mean that while publication of the report will be a major milestone, it is not expected to satisfy everyone and draw a line under the affair. Since the inquiry was set up, new legislation has been introduced to ensure no future tribunal, which cost £190m, will last so long or be so expensive.