Bloody Sunday: Victims' relatives welcome Saville report findings

At each mention of the innocence of victims of the 1972 shootings, applause and cheers reverberated from Derry Guildhall's walls

Bloody Sunday survivors and relatives of those who died in the shootings, welcomed Lord Saville's findings as they left Derry Guildhall today.

A minute's silence was held as thousands of supporters filled the square outside, waiting to be told about the Saville report's contents.

"When the state kills its citizens, [it] should be held to account," said Tony Doherty, whose father, Patrick, died on Bloody Sunday. "The search for truth and justice has been an inspiration for the people of Derry. No one who died in the struggle for justice will be forgotten."

Applause and cheering swelled at each mention of the victims' innocence, reverberating from the Guildhall's walls.

A representative of each of the families spoke in turn. "My brother was running away from the soldiers when he was shot," Joe Duddy said of his brother, Jackie. "He was posing no threat. [The Widgery report] destroyed our loved ones' good names. Today we clear them. I'm delighted to say that Jackie was innocent."

A copy of the hated 1972 report by Lord Widgery, which accused the victims of firing weapons or handling bombs, was torn apart by one of the families' representatives.

Several families quoted the text of the Saville document, exultant that it specifically cleared the victims of the allegation that they had been gunmen or nailbombers.

Catherine Kelly, whose younger brother, Michael, died, said: "The wait has been almost 40 years. Today, the truth has been told. I say to my little brother, Michael, at last you can rest in peace forever."

Kate Nash, whose brother, William, died in the Bogside, said: "Thirty-eight years ago, a story went around the world, concocted by General Mike Jackson. He said there were gunmen and bombers on our streets, and they were shot. Today, that lie has been uncovered. My brother William knew he was innocent. We have always known he was innocent. Now the world knows."

John Kelly, whose 17-year-old brother, Michael, was killed by paratroopers, told the crowd outside the Guildhall: "The report is very long and very detailed and covers a wide range of topics. However, for us, what matters above all else – what has been in our constant thoughts all these years – is the innocence of our loved ones. Everything else fades into insignificance compared to the fact that those shot down on Bloody Sunday were ordinary, decent Derry people.

"That's the verdict we wanted. That's the verdict we have today. That will be the verdict of history for all time. That is what matters."

Denis Bradley, the former priest who was the vice-chairman of the Northern Ireland policing board and who was on the march in 1972, welcomed the findings. "This report is an authentication of this city and the people who gave evidence," he said. "A British prime minister has had to criticise his own troops at a time when they are serving in Afghanistan. This is an amazing report for the city. This report is very clear where the responsibility lies. I'm very satisfied with it."


Owen Bowcott

The GuardianTramp

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