Council calls for reversal of Sunday murder probe cutbacks

One of the harrowing scenes captured in the Bogside during Bloody Sunday on January 30th, 1972.
One of the harrowing scenes captured in the Bogside during Bloody Sunday on January 30th, 1972.

Derry City Council is to call for the PSNI murder investigation into the Bloody Sunday killings to be properly resourced, after a motion on the matter was passed by majority.

Unionists on the council voted against the move after their nationalist colleagues refused to back an amendment proposed by DUP Councillor Gary Middleton.

Mr Middleton had suggested broadening the original motion, put forward by Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper, to include “all innocent victims”.

Colr. Cooper had earlier at the November meeting of the full council put forward a motion that “this council supports the calls from the Bloody Sunday Families for the appropriate resourcing of the live PSNI investigation into the murder and attempted murder of their loved ones in line with the previous public commitment given to the families by senior members of the PSNI”.

Speaking at the meeting in the Guildhall chamber on Tuesday, Colr. Cooper said: “Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris have assurances to the Bloody Sunday families that they had ring-fenced resources for the completion of a live criminal enquiry into the murder and attempted murder of their loved ones.

“This public declaration was based on the recommendation from the Public Prosecution Service that a criminal investigation should be instigated into the events of January 30th, 1972 which were never formally investigated by the RUC at the time of the actual shootings.”

Mr Cooper said the recent announcements by the PSNI that they have withdrawn most of these resources has dismayed the families and also eroded public confidence amongst the wider population of Derry in the judicial process.

Mr Cooper said that the families were well aware of the financial pressures that currently exist, but were given assurances that the money for the investigation was ring-fenced.

“They are now asking for these resources to be guaranteed to ensure that the pubic apology by David Cameron regarding the events of Bloody Sunday is backed up with a commitment by all relevant agencies to assist the resourcing of the criminal investigation, which was a direct consequence of the Saville Inquiry’s verdict in 2010.”

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said his party fully supported the motion and the Bloody Sunday families in their search for justice.

He said: “The truth of what happened on 30th January 1972 was finally revealed by the Saville Inquiry - 38 long years after the darkest day in Derry’s history. Fourteen innocent men were killed and 12 others injured on our streets whilst marching for Civil Rights. The British Prime Minister David Cameron said actions of his armed forces were ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’. The families have the truth, they now deserve justice.”

Colr. Tierney described the recent announcement that the PSNI probe into the killings is under threat due to budget pressures at Stormont as “an insult” to the victims, their families and the people of Derry.

He added: “The SDLP feels that this much needed investigation should not be compromised due to budget difficulties within the Executive. In fact, we do not feel the cost of the investigation should be borne by the Executive at all.

“The British Government should pay for all investigations of killings by security forces, these investigations should not be financed by our block grant. In 1972 the British Government had a responsibility to the 14 victims to protect them from unlawful killing. They failed in that duty. They now have a duty to investigate those deaths and punish those responsible.”

DUP Councillor Gary Middleton said there was very little he disagreed with in what Colr. Tierney had said and added that the DUP “recognise what this motion is trying to do”.

“We fell it could be broadened out to include all innocent victims,” he said, including those injured in the Claudy bombing.

“We do not want to create a hierarchy of victims. We feel all victims are entitled to justice,” Colr. Middleton said, while proposing an amendment to the motion so it would include council support for calls from “all the families of all innocent victims for the appropriate resourcing of PSNI investigations into the murder or attempted murder of their loved ones”.

He added: “Murder is murder and it is all wrong”.

UUP Councillor Mary Hamilton supported the DUP amendment and said that she herself had to live every day with the injuries she sustained in the Claudy bombing in 1972.

“I am passionate that all murders need to be investigated,” she said, “to give the families some closure.”

Proceedings were adjourned for a short time while Sinn Fein and SDLP councillors spoke to some of the Bloody Sunday relatives and wounded who had gathered in the public gallery for the meeting.

Colr. Tierney said that they had no problem supporting the amendment providing it was incorporated to become part of the motion, or brought back at a future meeting as a standalone motion. He said he felt that the issue in hand related specifically to the Bloody Sunday families, who had been told the funding was ring-fenced.

Mr Cooper said that this was not about creating a hierarchy of victims and said they wanted to alter the original motion to include council support for the calls of the families of all innocent victims in terms of the PSNI investigations into the murder or attempted murder of their loved ones.

This final version of the motion was carried, despite the three unionist councillors present at the meeting voting against it.