‘We’re going to be sacrificed after 50 years’: Veterans tell of fears they’ll be next after Bloody Sunday troops probe
- Ex-soldiers fear witch-hunt if charges are made against Bloody Sunday troops
- The soldiers worry of an investigation into shootings five months earlier in 1972
- Two former paratroopers questioned over Bloody Sunday were also questioned on earlier shooting
Former paratroopers fear that if charges are brought against Army veterans involved in Bloody Sunday it will pave the way for another witch-hunt into troops over shootings five months earlier.
Seventeen former soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment will find out on Thursday whether they will be prosecuted in respect of the Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry in 1972.
Thirteen civilians died at the time while another died later from his injuries. The ex-soldiers are being investigated over alleged offences including murder, attempted murder and grievous bodily harm. They face the prospect of life sentences.
Former paratroopers fear that if charges are brought against Army veterans involved in Bloody Sunday shootings in Londonderry 1972 it will pave the way for another witch-hunt into troops over shootings five months earlier
Now ex-servicemen have told the Daily Mail they fear that if charges are brought, then ex-paratroopers will ‘undoubtedly face prosecution’ over separate shootings involving the same battalion on the Ballymurphy estate in west Belfast in August 1971.
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A retired soldier now in his 70s, who served with 1 Para in Ballymurphy, said: ‘There is massive concern that if charges are made against the battalion over Bloody Sunday then they [Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service] will come after those of us who served in Ballymurphy. This witch-hunt is not over. Where is the justice?’
Families of the ten civilians killed in Ballymurphy have long alleged that some soldiers involved went on to take part in Bloody Sunday five months later, on January 30, 1972.
Police began the criminal probe in the wake of the 12-year, £200million inquiry led by Lord Saville, which concluded in 2010 that soldiers from the Parachute Regiment had ‘lost control’ during a civil rights march, causing the ‘unjustified and unjustifiable’ deaths of 14 civilians
At least two former paratroopers questioned over Bloody Sunday were asked about their roles in the earlier shooting. An inquest into the Ballymurphy deaths is under way at Belfast Coroner’s Court and will next week hear evidence from former British soldiers involved in the operation.
To date, 41 members of the Parachute Regiment have been asked by the coroner to appear at the inquest, where their identities could be revealed.
Two former paratroopers called to give evidence say they could be made ‘political scapegoats’ if charges are brought against Bloody Sunday troops. The Mail has long campaigned for an end to the witch-hunt against British troops. Another former paratrooper, now in his 70s, who was on the streets of Ballymurphy, said: ‘We all fear that this is more about politics than justice and if that is the case then the logic says there will be prosecutions for Ballymurphy and men who regularly risked their lives for Queen and country will be sacrificed.
‘It is nearly 50 years. Memories, people argue, are not what they were, but many of us know exactly what happened and why and how we reacted.’
Eighteen former paratroopers were under investigation, but one has died
In an incident referred to as ‘Belfast’s Bloody Sunday’, ten people including the local priest and a mother-of-eight who was shot in the face were killed in Ballymurphy over a 36-hour period in August 1971.
The Parachute Regiment had been deployed to the area with Troubles violence soaring. Disturbances were triggered after the Northern Ireland government imposed internment without trial and troops were given the task of detaining suspected Provisional IRA members.
John Teggart, whose father Danny was shot 14 times, said families would be keeping ‘a very close eye’ on Thursday’s Bloody Sunday announcement.
‘If the Bloody Sunday families get the result that many people [hope for], it will prove a point to us and many other people that those who were in uniform are not above the law,’ he said.
Yesterday it emerged that Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley had asked to meet Mr Teggart and other families to apologise over her comments that Troubles killings by the military and police were ‘not crimes’. But he refused and insisted she should resign.
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