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Thursday, January 29, 1998 Published at 16:55 GMT


We must find Bloody Sunday truth - Blair
image: [ One of the many messages that urged Tony Blair to announce the new inquiry ]
One of the many messages that urged Tony Blair to announce the new inquiry

Tony Blair's statement in full (8'27")
The Prime Minister has told the House of Commons his examination of accounts of Bloody Sunday convinced him a new inquiry is needed.

"Bloody Sunday was different because, where the state's own forces are concerned, we must be sure about the truth," he said.

But the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, dismissed Mr Blair's hope that an inquiry could be part of the healing process in Northern Ireland.

"Opening old wounds like this is likely to do more harm than good," Mr Trimble said.

[ image: British troops open fire on Catholics]
British troops open fire on Catholics
Mr Blair told the House he had not forgotten all the other victims of violence in Northern Ireland, but an inquiry was "the only course that will lead to public confidence".

He said he had been moved by speaking to relatives of Bloody Sunday victims who did not want recriminations, nor want revenge, but the truth.

"It is in the interests of everyone that the truth is established and told."

He added: "It is also the way forward to the necessary reconciliation which will be such an important part of building a secure future for the people of Northern Ireland. I ask all sides of the House to support our proposal for this inquiry."

He did not criticise the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Widgery, whose report exonerated the paratroopers who shot and killed 14 Catholics following a march in Londonderry 26 years ago.

[ image: David Trimble: fears inquiry will do more harm than good]
David Trimble: fears inquiry will do more harm than good
But he said a dossier prepared by the Irish Government showed Lord Widgery's report to be flawed.

"The timescale within which Lord Widgery produced his report means he was not able to consider all the evidence available," he said.

"Since his report was published much new material has come to light about the events of that day."

The tribunal would sit in both Northern Ireland and Britain, he said, and the findings would be expected to be made public, he said.

Lord Saville of Newdigate will chair the tribunal with two members who are likely to be from the Commonwealth, Mr Blair said.

But as expected, the Prime Minister did not pre-empt the outcome of the inquiry by offering an apology for the killings.

The Conservative leader, William Hague said he was sceptical about the need for a new inquiry but welcomed the lack of early contrition.

"It would have been bizarre for you to make an apology in advance of any inquiry," he said.

He added: "If the Prime Minister is personally satisfied, on the basis of the strong advice he has received, that genuine, fresh and compelling evidence has now been submitted, which is significant enough to warrant the reopening of the inquiry, then we shall accept his judgment."

A spokeswoman for the relatives of those killed, Angela Heggarty, welcomed the announcement but said she wanted to examine how the inquiry would be conducted.

"It's difficult to respond to something you've just heard. Clearly this has the same remit as the Widgery Tribunal and we don't know much about Lord Saville or how the tribunal will run, so it raises some questions."

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29 Jan 98 | UK
Bloody Sunday relatives welcome inquiry

29 Jan 98 | UK
Irish Government publishes Bloody Sunday dossier

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