Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 21, 2010
Bloody Sunday was unjustified: report
Irish bishops witnessed British troops shooting 14 Catholics
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
DUBLIN - Ireland's bishops welcomed the finding of a report that said British troops' killing of 14 Catholics in 1972 was not justified.
Two of the bishops were from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, where the incident - widely known as Bloody Sunday - occurred.
"We share the joy and relief of the families of those killed and injured on Bloody Sunday," the bishops said in a statement June 16, the day after the release of the long-awaited Saville Report.
"We acknowledge the hurt and pain of the many people who lost loved ones on these islands during the course of the Troubles. We continue to carry them all in our thoughts and prayers."
The bishops acknowledged the witness provided by many clergy, including retired Bishop Edward Daly of Derry, "whose part in Bloody Sunday and its aftermath is deservedly recognized."
One of the most enduring images of Bloody Sunday is a photo of then-Father Daly waving a white flag, while he and others carry a teenager's body to safety.
Daly said the people of the city had been vindicated.
"At the time I said mass murder had taken place, and I still believe that today. Perhaps more people now believe that happened," he said.
On Jan. 30, 1972, troops from Britain's Parachute Regiment opened fire on civil rights demonstrators seeking universal suffrage in Northern Ireland and an end to discrimination against Catholics in employment and access to housing.
Despite evidence one victim was shot in the back while lying on the ground and others were shot while fleeing, the British government's first inquiry into the massacre, the Widgery Tribunal, exonerated the soldiers after concluding they had fired in self-defence.
Apologizing to victims' relatives in a statement to the British Parliament, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "What happened should never, ever have happened. . . .
"The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces and for that, on behalf of the government, indeed, on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry."
Summarizing the findings, Cameron said: "Lord Saville concludes that the soldiers of the support company who went into the Bogside did so as a result of an order which should not have been given by their commander.
ARMY SHOT FIRST
"He finds that, on balance, the first shot in the vicinity of the march was fired by the British army. He finds that none of the casualties shot by the soldiers was armed with a firearm.
"He finds that there was some firing by Republican paramilitaries but none of this firing provided any justification for the shooting of civilian casualties. And he finds that in no case was any warning given by soldiers before opening fire.
"He also finds that the support company reacted by losing their self-control, forgetting or ignoring their instructions and training and with a serious and widespread loss of fire discipline.
"And he finds that many of the soldiers - and I quote knowingly - put forward false accounts to seek to justify their firing," Cameron said.
A day after the publication, leaders of the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland met with victims' families and promised to work with them to forge new intercommunity relationships.
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