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Thursday, January 29, 1998 Published at 05:01 GMT


Bloody Sunday relatives livid over 'despicable' news leak

Relatives of those who died on Bloody Sunday 26 years ago are angry that they heard the news of a fresh judicial inquiry into the killings through the media - not from officials.

Paddy Ashdown, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, relates his experience of Bloody Sunday as a Royal Marine (3' 06")
Tony Doherty, a member of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign, said Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam telephoned the group on Tuesday to warn them of the announcement's timing, but told them to listen to TV and radio for details.

Mr Doherty, whose father died when troops opened fire on marchers in Londonderry, told BBC Radio this was "an absolutely despicable way of proceeding".

[ image: 14 people were killed on Bloody Sunday]
14 people were killed on Bloody Sunday
He accused the Government of misinformation for suggesting that the victims' families had been told the substance of the announcement, when that was "categorically not the case".

They had waited 26 years for this moment, he said. Their treatment, despite promises made publicly and privately by Dr Mowlam to inform them, had "kicked the new inquiry off on the wrong foot" in terms of establishing the families' confidence.

"Families still in dark"

"That is a very bad sign of things to come," said Mr Doherty. "It casts a shadow over the immediate intentions of the British Government."

He repeated his criticisms of the families' treatment several times: "It's clearly not good enough; it's just not good enough ... They're very, very angry at the way they've been treated by the British Government."

[ image: Soldiers claimed they were fired on first]
Soldiers claimed they were fired on first
Mr Doherty said there should be more direct contact between the victims' relatives and the Government. As a result of the leaks and lack of first hand information, Tony Doherty said the families were "as much in the dark tonight as they were last night".

They would spend much of Thursday meeting privately until the formal announcement. He said the crucial issues were who would appoint the international jurors on the inquiry, what their parameters would be and what powers they would have.

Others connected to the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign said much would hinge on the legal basis for the inquiry, which will dictate whether it could force the disclosure of documents or subpoena witnesses.


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