A prominent Bloody Sunday campaigner in Derry has welcomed news that the British Ministry of Defence has appealed to former paratroopers to volunteer their names and addresses to the PSNI involved in the new Bloody Sunday murder investigation.
“This is what it has all been about,” says Mickey McKinney, whose brother Willie - a former ‘Derry Journal’ employee - was one of thirteen men and boys murdered during a civil rights march on January 30, 1972.
“The fact that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are taking this investigation seriously and calling for paras to come forward has to be welcomed, of course,” he says. “This is now a murder investigation and the paras - regardless of age - will be required by the law to co-operate.”
“We in Derry always knew that our people were innocent, and it is only right now that those who committed the crimes of murder on our streets will be brought to book for them.”
News of the MoD appeal came to light over the weekend. It is understood that a letter from Caron Tassel, directorate of judicial engagement policy at the MoD, is being sent to regimental associations asking for those involved in Bloody Sunday to contact the MoD.
The letter has been sanctioned by the Parachute Regiment’s Colonel Commandant, Lieutenant General Jacko Page, and contains the warning: “We feel it is only fair to let witnesses know that we may be required to disclose those details to the police at some stage.”
A British newspaper also quoted responses of several former paratroopers who served on Bloody Sunday, with one former soldier insisting: “The authorities will not be getting my address and that is for sure”, while another added: “The Ministry of Defence is clearly not in a position to guarantee our anonymity so many will be reluctant to co-operate, making the police inquiry something of a farce.”
Mickey McKinney is now curious to see just how soldiers will handle this request from Army chiefs. “We need to wait and see if soldiers will challenge this appeal and how they are going to resist co-operating with the PSNI and an official murder investigation,” he said yesterday. “It will be very interesting to see.”
“After going through two separate inquiries where the British paratroopers didn’t co-operate - now is the chance for these soldiers to clear their conscience and co-operate with the PSNI murder investigation.”
Meanwhile, East Derry MP Gregory Campbell has vowed to raise the issue of the IRA’s role in Bloody Sunday at Westminster this week. “Police asking questions of former soldiers while not asking questions of the former second in command of the PIRA (Martin McGuinness) will only compound the problems created by Saville,” he said.