£65m bill for inquiry into Bloody Sunday

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The Bloody Sunday inquiry is likely to cost at least £65m, including £40m on lawyers' fees, the Government said yesterday. Adam Ingram, Northern Ireland minister, said the cost of Lord Savile's tribunal on the death of 14 Catholic civil-rights demonstrators in Londonderry could increase if the inquiry lasted longer than expected.

The disclosure that lawyers' fees will be so high will increase controversy surrounding the inquiry. Its critics, who say it was set up as a sop to the republican movement, recently said it could cost up to £200m.

In a written parliamentary answer Mr Ingram said: "The largest single block of expenditure is the lawyers involved in the inquiry. These are expected to account for about two- thirds of the total costs."

The tribunal was set up two years ago to investigate circumstances behind shootings by the Parachute Regiment of unarmed nationalists who were taking part in an illegal civil-rights march in the Bogside area in 1972.

The inquiry, which opened last month at Londonderry guildhall, which has been booked by the tribunal for two years, was recently estimated to cost up to £55,000 a day. Early predictions suggested its total costs would run to £30m. But the expense of protecting military witnesses, other court actions to secure notes from journalists and paying 25 barristers acting for the dead and the soldiers and earning up to £2,500 a day, has already doubled its costs.

In February, before the inquiry started hearing evidence, Mr Ingram said costs had reached £7.7m. In the last two months of 1999 £1.6m went on lawyers' costs. Solicitors acting for the relatives had pay rates set initially at £114 an hour, with junior counsel earning £100 an hour. The tribunal has powers largely equivalent to those of the High Court. It also has an international dimension, with a judge from New Zealand, Sir Edward Somers, and Canada, William Hoyt, sitting with Lord Savile of Newdigate.