N. Ireland tensions rise over Bloody Sunday probe

Jul 6, 2012, 6:01 PM

Associated Press

DUBLIN (AP) – Divisions flared in Northern Ireland’s cross-community government Friday over police plans to open a criminal investigation into Bloody Sunday, a watershed event in the territory’s conflict 40 years ago when British troops killed 13 Irish Catholic demonstrators.

The Protestant who leads the 5-year-old coalition, Peter Robinson, said police must investigate what his Catholic colleague atop the government, Martin McGuinness, was doing as an Irish Republican Army commander on that day 40 years ago. The comments represented a rare moment of discord between Robinson and McGuinness over the latter’s murky IRA past.

Robinson said McGuinness “openly admitted that he was in charge” of IRA forces in Londonderry at Bloody Sunday. “If that was the case then there has to be an investigation, if you’re investigating the (British) Army.”

The episode underscores how scarred Northern Ireland remains from its four-decade conflict, which left a trail of more than 3,200 unsolved killings, most of them committed by McGuinness’ Provisional IRA. That dominant IRA faction renounced violence and disarmed in 2005, a prerequisite for McGuinness to become joint leader of Northern Ireland’s government two years later.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry, a British-government ordered investigation into the Jan. 30, 1972, killings in Londonderry’s Bogside district, took 12 years and nearly 200 million pounds ($300 million) to produce a 2010 report concluding that soldiers of the British Army’s hardened Parachute Regiment gunned down unarmed protesters without justification. Prime Minister David Cameron issued an immediate apology but none of the troops who opened fire that day has ever been charged with any crime.

Commanders of the Police Service of Northern Ireland announced Thursday they intend to open a criminal investigation into Bloody Sunday, but said they couldn’t say when it might start because the effort would require about 30 detectives working full-time on the case for at least three years, and they lacked the necessary resources.

Irish nationalists in Northern Ireland’s Catholic minority nonetheless welcomed the public pledge as a sign of progress _ and leaders of the British Protestant majority immediately called for any new probe to nail down McGuinness’ record as Londonderry’s former Provisional IRA leader, too.

The Bloody Sunday Inquiry did rule that McGuinness’ testimony was not credible in parts and found that he probably had armed himself with a submachine gun on the day, and may even have opened fire at troops. But its report emphasized that nothing any IRA factions did that day could justify how the soldiers shot unarmed civilians, killing 13 and wounding 15.

McGuinness _ who during his 2002 testimony to the Bloody Sunday Inquiry refused to answer questions about other Provisional IRA members’ actions on the day _ rejected its findings about him again Friday.

“I totally and absolutely reject that. It didn’t happen, it’s not true,” he said. “I didn’t fire a machine gun, I didn’t even have a machine gun and that’s where it rests.”

He said Protestant leaders putting his IRA past in the spotlight “do not want to see the paras (paratroopers) investigated for murder.”

Experts on the Provisional IRA say McGuinness, 62, was a commander of the outlawed group from 1971 to 2005, holding a series of senior positions at a time when the group killed most of its 1,775 victims. He was convicted twice of IRA membership in the mid-1970s but insists he resigned from the organization while in an Irish prison in 1974.

Many Protestants have complained that disproportionate state resources have already been spent on Bloody Sunday versus an epically long list of other unsolved crimes, including the IRA killings of hundreds of police officers. They say any probe into Bloody Sunday should be handled by a “cold case” specialist unit separate from the police called the Historical Enquiries Team. It was created in 2005 specifically to review evidence on more than 3,200 unsolved killings from the conflict.

“Why are police resources, already under enormous pressure, to be devoted to a particular event when the unsolved murders of 211 RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) police officers are being investigated along with over 2,000 civilian unsolved murders through the Historical Enquiries Team?” asked Terry Spence, chairman of the police union.



Bloody Sunday Inquiry report,

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

(Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BoF VOICES)...
Associated Press

Vivienne Westwood, influential fashion maverick, dies at 81

Vivienne Westwood, an influential fashion maverick who played a key role in the punk movement, died Thursday at 81.
1 month ago
FILE - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during his first Cabinet meeting flanked by his ...
Associated Press

Rishi Sunak: UK’s ex-Treasury chief gets his shot at PM job

LONDON (AP) — Rishi Sunak ran for Britain’s top job and lost. Then he got another shot — and the chance to say “I told you so.” The former U.K. Treasury chief was runner-up to Liz Truss in the contest to replace the scandal-plagued Boris Johnson as Conservative Party leader and prime minister. But Truss […]
3 months ago
Britain's Prime Minister Liz Truss addresses the media in Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. ...
Associated Press

Truss quits, but UK’s political and economic turmoil persist

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Liz Truss quit Thursday after a tumultuous and historically brief term marred by economic policies that roiled financial markets and a rebellion in her political party that obliterated her authority. After just 45 days in office, Truss became the third Conservative prime minister to be toppled in as many […]
3 months ago
People receive medical treatment at the scene of Russian shelling, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Oct. 1...
Associated Press

Russia unleashes biggest attacks in Ukraine in months

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia retaliated Monday for an attack on a critical bridge by unleashing its most widespread strikes against Ukraine in months, a lethal barrage that smashed civilian targets, knocked out power and water, shattered buildings and killed at least 14 people. Ukraine’s Emergency Service said nearly 100 people were wounded in the […]
4 months ago
This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, upper rig...
Associated Press

NASA spacecraft smashes into asteroid for defense test

A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.
4 months ago
Associated Press

At least 9 killed as Iran protests over woman’s death spread

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters angry over the death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody have killed at least nine people since the violence erupted over the weekend, according to a tally Thursday by The Associated Press. The scope of Iran’s ongoing unrest, the worst in […]
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
N. Ireland tensions rise over Bloody Sunday probe