Letter: Britain's duty over agony of Bloody Sunday

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The Independent Online
Sir: Today is the 25th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry, when 14 unarmed civilians were mortally wounded by British troops in what became a key recruiting sergeant for the then fledgling Provisional IRA.

Furthermore, the tribunal headed by the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, did not hear all relevant evidence. The tribunal is still widely perceived as having failed to comprehensively document the events that led to the killing of 14 unarmed civilians. Whether deliberately or accidentally, the tribunal added fuel to the fire.

For the past 25 years, Bloody Sunday has remained a running sore and has underpinned the fears of many law-abiding Catholics that they are or could become second-class citizens. It has also been ruthlessly exploited by the Provisional IRA and its apologists to justify unjustifiable political violence.

However, the British government has made some movement on this issue. In particular, there was the Prime Minister's statement in 1992, which was a response to our representations, that those killed on that fateful day "should be regarded as having been found not guilty of having been shot whilst handling a firearm or bomb". A year later, in response to John Hume, Mr Major said that those killed were "innocent".

We strongly urge the British government to build on this and take decisive moves to help put the justified sorrow concerning Bloody Sunday behind us.

It should waive the 30-year rule on relevant historical documents and institute an independent inquiry, with independent British, Irish and other historians, to investigate new claims made in Don Mullan's recent book (which gives new evidence that marchers came under fire from other troops in the area), to examine the outcome of the Widgery Tribunal and, crucially, to apologise to the relatives of those who were killed.

We believe that such actions would not only bring comfort to the families of those killed but would also help undermine the ruthless way in which the Provisional IRA has hypocritically exploited Bloody Sunday for its propaganda purposes, by putting a line under this tragic event.

HARRY BARNES MP

(Derbyshire North East, Lab)

PETER BOTTOMLEY MP

(Eltham, C)

House of Commons

London SW1

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