Bloody Sunday inquiry delay angers victims' relatives

• £200m and 11-year-long Saville report into Derry shootings delayed again
• Families fear new March publication date may clash with possible election

Relatives of people killed on Bloody Sunday have reacted angrily to the news that the report into the 1972 massacre will be delayed until at least March next year.

Families of the 13 people shot dead by the Parachute Regiment in Derry fear the release of the 4,500-page report will be obscured by a general election or published under a new Conservative government.

Lord Saville, the judge presiding over the 11-year-long inquiry into Bloody Sunday, had been expected to have published his report before Christmas.

The inquiry is expected to cost more than £200m and will be the most expensive public investigation in British legal history.

The Saville report is virtually complete but it is understood that technical difficulties linked to its printing is holding up the process. It means it will be more than six years after the inquiry effectively ended and 12 years after the process was started by the then prime minister Tony Blair in January 1998.

Bloody Sunday families confirmed today that they have sent a letter to the Northern Ireland secretary, Shaun Woodward, asking for a meeting.

Thirteen men were shot dead when paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march in Derry's Bogside area. A 14th man, who was among the injured, died later in hospital.

Tony Doherty, whose father Patrick was among the victims, said the families were hugely disappointed and gravely concerned about the new delay.

Downing Street had expected to take delivery later this year, by Christmas at the latest, and when ministers do eventually get a copy they are then expected to take two or three weeks, maybe longer, to consider the findings before agreeing to go public.

Doherty said: "We will be making our sense of disappointment known to Lord Saville and Shaun Woodward within the next 48 hours, asking them to reconsider the day and bring it forward by a number of weeks.

"March 22 means parliament will be moving towards the Easter recess and possibly the imminent announcement of an election. That will inevitably mean yet another delay because the government of the day will want to have a close look at the findings, before the report is finally released to the families. We are gravely concerned about that."

Earlier Woodward, who is in New York attending Bill Clinton's special economic forum and who was told by Lord Saville that the report would be with him this year, said he was profoundly shocked.

He added: "I am concerned at the impact on the families of those who lost loved ones and those who were injured. I am equally concerned at the increased anxiety that soldiers serving on the day will suffer."


Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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