Northern Ireland

Bloody Sunday report: Relatives give report thumbs up

Thousands of people are cheering outside the Guildhall in Londonderry as relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday gave the Saville Report the thumbs up.

A spontaneous cheer broke out as the families of those killed waved the report through the Guildhall windows.

It happened as Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at Westminster.

Thirteen people died in 1972 when British soldiers opened fire on civil rights marchers in Londonderry.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams and Nobel Peace prize winner John Hume are present.

Inside Derry's Guildhall, relatives and lawyers have been studying the report's findings.

Outside, thousands have begun to retrace the steps of the original marchers from the Bloody Sunday memorial in the city's Bogside close to the spot where many of the victims died.

On the way to Guildhall Square the marchers trampled on a recreation of the Widgery Report, symbolising the rejection of that 1972 report, regarded by nationalists as a whitewash - and the publication, in just under 30 minutes, of the Saville Report.

As the first marchers reached the Guildhall, there was applause from the crowd gathered outside.

At 1500 BST as many as 5,000 people had gathered in the city square to await the publication of the report.

The report was delivered to the Guildhall in Derry at 0200 BST on Tuesday. It cost £195m and took 12 years to complete.

The shootings were among the most controversial state killings in the Northern Ireland conflict.

The marchers were shot dead on 30 January 1972 when British paratroopers opened fire on crowds at a civil rights demonstration. Fourteen others were wounded, one of whom later died.

More than 25 years later, in 1998, then Prime Minister Tony Blair established a full inquiry under the auspices of former High Court judge, Lord Saville of Newdigate.

An inquiry chaired by Lord Widgery was held in the immediate aftermath of the killings but it failed to satisfy families of the victims and was condemned as a whitewash.

Earlier, shortly after 1000 BST, friends, relatives, politicians and well-wishers accompanied the families of those killed to the Guildhall.

As each of them went into the building to get their first glimpse of the report, they raised aloft a placard bearing the picture of their dead relative, as the assembled crowd clapped and cheered.

Kay Duddy, whose brother Jackie was the first person to be shot on Bloody Sunday, will be among the first of the family members to see the report.

The Guildhall, Derry
The crowds gathered outside the Guildhall

"We've waited so long for this, and now we're finally here, my stomach is in knots," she said, before going into the Guildhall to read it.

"So many times we thought we were so close, and to think that soon we'll see it in black in white... I just hope I can get through the day," she said.

In her handbag, she carried a handkerchief marked 'Fr Edward Daly' - the same white handkerchief that the priest used to try and staunch the blood from her dying brother's wounds.

She said she carried it to give her strength on this important day.

The families will not come out again until at least 1530 BST, when the contents of the report they are now reading will be revealed to the world.

That will come via a Commons statenment by Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Saville Inquiry took witness statements from hundreds of people and has become the longest-running and most expensive in British history.

It closed in 2004 with the report initially due for publication the following year.

According to BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport, while it may not have been the bloodiest day in the history of the Troubles, "the significance of that day in shaping the course of the conflict cannot be overstated".

"The actions of the Parachute Regiment in shooting dead 13 unarmed civil rights protesters immeasurably strengthened Irish republicans' arguments within their own community and provided the Provisional IRA with a flood of fresh recruits for its long war," he said.

Our correspondent also said Bloody Sunday set in train the suspension of the Northern Ireland government in March 1972, which led to the decades of direct rule from London.

The full process of restoring devolution was only completed in 2010.

Among the issues which Lord Saville will address are the allegations contained in the 1972 Widgery Inquiry into the killings that some of the dead and injured were gunmen or bombers.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein, who was a Provisional IRA leader at the time of Bloody Sunday, said: "My feelings and emotions are with them and whether they get the truth and justice they've been fighting for for nearly 40 years".

Ivan Cooper who was one of the organisers of the civil rights march in January, 1972, said that, given the loss of life, he now felt the parade was a mistake.

"The reason for the march was to protest against the Special Powers Act which gave the government the right to legislate for internment without trial.

"But looking back now I don't happen to believe any one life is worth any drop of blood, so in retrospect now I believe that the march probably was a mistake," he said.

Bloody Sunday campaigner Eamonn McCann said: "Based on the evidence, I'm confident he (Lord Saville) is going to find that none of the dead or wounded were nailbombers or gunmen."

This was accepted by the soldiers during the inquiry, but they maintained the victims were shot by mistake while they were firing at armed men.

There has been speculation that Lord Saville's report will say that some were unlawfully killed.

A republican paramilitary group, the Official IRA, have said they fired a small number of shots on the day.

Mr McGuinness also faced questions from the inquiry as to his activities on Bloody Sunday.

The report will include findings on both wings of the IRA.

The relatives of those killed on Bloody Sunday also believe Lord Saville must consider the role and responsibility of senior figures in the Army and government in 1972.