Ex-Army officer vents his fury over prosecution of Bloody Sunday veteran linked to 1972 massacre

‘IRA terrorists enjoy taxpayer-funded retirement while our veterans are harassed’: Ex-Army officer’s fury over prosecution of Bloody Sunday veteran linked to 1972 Londonderry massacre

  • Furious Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker served five tours of Northern Ireland
  • He has blasted a plan to resume the discontinued prosecution of British veteran
  • Ex-paratrooper ‘Soldier F’ is being facing a fresh probe over killings 50 years ago 
  • Soldier F is facing two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder

A furious Northern Ireland veteran has lashed out over plans to resume the prosecution of a British soldier accused of murder and attempted murder on Bloody Sunday 50 years ago.

The former paratrooper, known as Soldier F, will once again face being hauled in front of a court over his alleged actions during the 1972 tragedy in Londonderry at the height of the Troubles.

But the news has been met with fury by Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, who said IRA terrorists were being allowed to ‘enjoy their retirement’ while British veterans continue to be hounded.

Lt Col Parker, who completed five tours of Northern Ireland serving in the country for a total of six years, told MailOnline: ‘With all the terrorists let out after convictions on licence most Northern Ireland veterans wonder why there seems no let up to the harassment of Northern Ireland veterans in this way.

‘The UK cannot have the former terrorists in the IRA enjoying retirement, many with sizeable taxpayer-funded grants, and yet our veterans, who served the nation to keep the peace, left wondering when they will get to retire in peace too.’

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, pictured on operations in Afghanistan in 2008, completed five tours of Northern Ireland and was outraged by the prosecution of Soldier F

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Chris Parker, pictured on operations in Afghanistan in 2008, completed five tours of Northern Ireland and was outraged by the prosecution of Soldier F

As part of the Good Friday Agreement to bring peace to Northern Ireland, it was agreed that convicted terrorists would be released from prison in return for the IRA ceasing its campaign of violence. 

Last year the Government announced it was giving a fresh amnesty to IRA fighters to exempt them legal action.

The move was meant to give British troops and spies – as well as Republican terrorists – clemency in a bid to shut down the witch-hunt against veterans. 

But the proposals were met with fury from families of victims slain by the IRA during their decades-long campaign of terror, who branded the deal ‘obscene’.

And in a new chapter in the Troubles saga, Northern Ireland ‘s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced the dropped prosecution of Soldier F will be resumed. 

It came after the Belfast High Court overruled the PPS’s previous decision to drop charges against the ex-soldier, for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney.

The McKinney family then successfully challenged the original decision by prosecutors by way of judicial review.

The PPS said it had since reviewed its position on the matter and decided to resume the prosecution against the former paratrooper – who has not been named.

Pictured: James Wray

Pictured: William McKinney

Soldier F was accused of murdering James Wray (left) and William McKinney (right) on January 30, 1972

Bloody Sunday saw British troops open fire on civil rights demonstrators in the Bogside area of Derry, killing 13 people. Pictured: A confrontation between soldiers and protesters earlier in the day

Bloody Sunday saw British troops open fire on civil rights demonstrators in the Bogside area of Derry, killing 13 people. Pictured: A confrontation between soldiers and protesters earlier in the day 

And earlier this month, the court rejected the PPS’s bid to have its appeal referred to the UK Supreme Court .

The PPS has now reviewed its position and has decided to resume the prosecution.

Soldier F is facing two counts of murder and five counts of attempted murder.

The investigations into the ex-British troops has previously sparked outrage, with former veterans minister Johnny Mercer blasting the government over its inaction to protect retired soldiers from persecution. 

‘The reality is that for these people, their experiences after having served this nation, 50 years later, they are constantly being dragged over to Northern Ireland, and asked to relive their experiences, it is people are drinking themselves to death,’ the retired Army officer said.

‘And all they did was serve at the behest of this government at the behest of the House of Commons, to uphold the rule of law on the peace and when the peace in Northern Ireland.

‘And yet now we’re happy to cut them off to people who want to rewrite history.’ 

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Michael Agnew said: ‘The judgment delivered by the Divisional Court in March 2022 has been carefully examined and a fresh review of this case carried out.

‘It has been concluded that, in order to give effect to the Divisional Court judgment, the original decision to prosecute Soldier F should stand.

‘Therefore, the committal proceedings that were put on hold should now proceed.

‘The PPS has written to representatives of the families and victims directly involved in the prosecution of Soldier F to confirm this decision.

‘We have offered to meet with the families to answer any questions they may have and to outline the next steps to be taken to progress the case. Soldier F’s legal representatives have also been informed.

‘I am very conscious of the upset caused to the Bloody Sunday families by the PPS decision to withdraw proceedings against Soldier F last year. It is our role to keep under review the evidence presented in every case.

‘This case has presented difficult and complex legal issues for prosecutors, as was acknowledged by the Divisional Court. The PPS is committed to progressing court proceedings against Soldier F without any further delay.’

Lawyers for the McKinney family said they had been informed that proceedings would resume next week.

The family of William McKinney: John (second left) and Mickey (second right), walk in with solicitors, brothers, Fearghal and Ciaran Shiels, as they arrive at the City Hotel in Londonderry, for a meeting with the Public Prosecution Service last year

The family of William McKinney: John (second left) and Mickey (second right), walk in with solicitors, brothers, Fearghal and Ciaran Shiels, as they arrive at the City Hotel in Londonderry, for a meeting with the Public Prosecution Service last year

Mickey McKinney, brother of William McKinney, said: ‘We are delighted that the prosecution of Soldier F will resume next week.

‘We hope that the PPS secure an early date for the resumption of the committal proceedings and that Soldier F is returned for trial to the Crown Court without further delay.

‘We hope to meet with the PPS to discuss the future progress of the case in the coming weeks.’

Bloody Sunday was one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland’s history, when British soldiers shot dead 13 civil rights protestors in the Bogside area of Londonderry.

Another man shot by paratroopers on January 30 1972 died four months later. While many consider him the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday, his death was formally attributed to an inoperable brain tumour. 

Bloody Sunday: Banned protest of 20,000 became worst single shooting of ‘The Troubles’ with 13 dead after British Army opened fire

Thirteen unarmed civilians were shot dead by the 1st Battalion of the British Army’s Parachute Regiment on what became known as Bloody Sunday in Bogside, Londonderry on January 30, 1972.

Another 15 people were wounded in the shootings, with one of those injured – John Johnston – dying four months later. 

Other protesters were injured by shrapnel or batons, and two were run down by army vehicles during the chaos which broke out on William Street.  

The killings, which took place in the space of ten minutes shortly after 4pm, happened during a protest against internment without trial organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA). 

The parade, which involved an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people, had set off from Bishop’s Field in the Creggan area of Londonderry, with plans to end at the Guildhall.

But when the march reached the city centre, those in charge decided to avoid Guildhall and instead walk to Free Derry Corner in Bogside as the route had been blocked by British Army barriers.

An armed soldier attacks a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march in Londonderry

An armed soldier attacks a protestor on Bloody Sunday when British Paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians on a civil rights march in Londonderry

However, several demonstrators diverted from the main group at Rossville Street and continued to where a barricade had been erected on William Street to prevent approaches to Guildhall.  

Those involved began throwing stones towards the soldiers at around 3.40pm, and the Regiment responded by firing plastic bullets, CS gas and spraying demonstrators with water cannons.

In the Saville Inquiry, which investigated the circumstances of Bloody Sunday, Lord Saville said soldiers from the Royal Green Jackets ‘acted with restraint in the face of the rioting at this barrier and deployed no more than properly proportionate force in seeking to deal with it’. 

At around 3.55pm it is understood the crowd spotted paratroopers occupying a derelict three-story building overlooking William Street, and began throwing stones at the windows. 

These soldiers then opened fire, with Damien Donaghy and John Johnston shot and wounded while standing on waste ground opposite the building.    

Colonel Derek Wilford, commanding the Regiment, sent a message to Brigade Headquarters from his position near a church suggesting troops be sent through the barrier to arrest rioters.

A mural depicting those who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday in Rossville Street, Londonderry

A mural depicting those who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday in Rossville Street, Londonderry

A few minutes later, at 4.07pm, Brigadier Pat MacLellan gave orders for the Regiment to mount an arrest operation at William Street – known as Barrier 14 – but not to ‘chase people down the street.’

Colonel Wilford deployed one company through Barrier 14 as permitted, but also deployed a support company in vehicles from the nearby Barrier 12 on Little James Street.

Those from Barrier 12 travelled into Bogside and disembarked, which is when more rifle shots were fired.

Soldiers opened fire in the car park of the Rossville Flats, shooting teenager Jackie Duddy, 17, in the back as he ran with Father Edward Daly and wounding several others. 

Six others were shot on Rossville Street, as other soldiers entered Glenfada Park North, where William McKinney, 26, and Jim Wray, 22, were fatally wounded.

Those in Glenfada Park North then went to its south-east entrance, from where they fired across to Rossville Street and killed Bernard McGuigan, 41, and fatally injured Patrick Doherty, 31.

Nearby, in Abbey Park, a British Army solider shot Gerard McKinney, 35. The shot passed through his body and hit Gerald Donaghey, 17.

In total, 26 unarmed civilians were shot by paratroopers during Bloody Sunday. Thirteen died on the day and another died of his injuries four months later.

At an inquest into the deaths, held in August 1973, coroner Hubert O’Neill, a retired British Army major, said: ‘This Sunday became known as Bloody Sunday and bloody it was. It was quite unnecessary. 

‘It strikes me that the Army ran amok that day and shot without thinking what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people. 

‘These people may have been taking part in a march that was banned but that does not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. 

‘I would say without hesitation that it was sheer, unadulterated murder. It was murder.’

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